Monster (Ashleigh Synnott, Puncher & Wattmann)
Monster is a collection of dark, finely written short stories by debut author Ashleigh Synnott. The stories are peopled with eccentric, predominantly female characters living atomised, often isolated lives. Mental illness, drug addiction and abandoned babies are among the topics explored in a sometimes provocative style (for example, one story opens with a character injecting drugs straight into their eyeball). Other stories are more subtle portraits of despondent, down-on-their-luck characters, whose bleak lives form the basis for some memorable scenes. The stories show the dark side of people, and there are several examples of younger characters in the process of losing their innocence as they confront this ugly side of humanity for the first time. It’s also worth noting the diversity of the characters across the book, particularly in age, which is refreshing for the way it opens up new ideas that aren’t often addressed in fiction, such as the isolated lives some older people live. Synnott is an expert at crafting short stories, and the collection stands out for its distinctive style and subjects. Most of the pieces in Monster are short short stories, which will be of particular appeal to some, including commuters and anyone whose attention span has taken a hit during lockdown. The book will appeal to readers interested in contemporary Australian literature and short fiction, while readers looking for something hopeful or uplifting better give this one a miss.
Brad Jefferies is the digital editor of Books+Publishing.