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Scary Monsters by Michelle de Kretser wins Rathbones Folio Prize for fiction

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Australian author Michelle de Kretser’s novel, Scary Monsters, has won this year’s Rathbones Folio Prize for fiction.

Described by the judges as “a work of beautifully composed genius; two consonant stories work to disorient and entangle, disarm and fascinate”, the book has two covers and contains two first-person narratives – one set in 1981 and the other in a dystopian near-future; the order in which they are read is left to the reader.

The judges added it is “a sublime novel that slips, fascinates and terrifies at once… deserves to be read again and again.”

Each category winner, selected from a shortlist of four, receives a £2,000 prize. Critic and author Margo Jefferson was the overall winner on the night for her memoir, Constructing a Nervous System, which was described by the judges as “astounding and rhapsodic”.

Scary Monsters

Lyle works for a sinister government department in near-future Australia. An Asian migrant, he fears repatriation and embraces ‘Australian values’. He’s also preoccupied by his ambitious wife, his wayward children and his strong-minded elderly mother.

Lili’s family migrated to Australia from Asia when she was a teenager. Now, in the 1980s, she’s teaching in the south of France. She makes friends, observes the treatment handed out to North African immigrants and is creeped out by her downstairs neighbour.

Three scary monsters – racism, misogyny and ageism – roam through this mesmerising novel. Its reversible format enacts the disorientation that migrants experience when changing countries changes the story of their lives.

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