Croggon, Alison. Monsters: a Reckoning. Melbourne: Scribe, 2021.
Reason read: as a member of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing I occasionally review books (mostly nonfiction).
Part memoir, part commentary on the world at large, Croggon centers Monsters squarely on one of the most difficult topics of them all: family. We all have had something of a family whether we like it admit it or not. Using an irreparable relationship with her two sisters as the threat through Monsters creates the tease to keep readers engaged. We all want to know what really happened with her family. Who is the real monster? More often than not, Croggon places the blame squarely on herself with statements like I’m the bad one, I am a monster, I am a blasphemy. The woe is me attitude was tiresome. Her research into her genealogy makes one question: how responsible are we for the sins of our fathers? What about our grandfathers? Great grandfather’s grandfather? Are we, in the 21st century, beholding to catastrophes committed in the 13th? While Croggon’s essays are thought provoking, I don’t think they tell a cohesive story relevant to the mystery of her dysfunctional family dynamics.
One other observation: Croggon spends a great deal of Monsters quoting other people:
Herman Melville, Frans de Waal, A.L. Rowse, Peter Ustinov, Rachel Dolezal, Ruby Hamad, Clara Thompson, Helene Cixous, Ursula K. Le Guin, Oyeronke Oyewumi, Carl Linnaeus, Angela Saini, Friedrich Nietsche, Gillian Rose, Olwen Hufton, Alex Wright, August Strindberg, Robin Bernstien, Mircea Eliade, Ijoema Oluo, Elaine Scarry, John Berger, Wallace Stevens, Graham Robb, Edward Said, Guilane Kinouani, Alice Walker, Camile Paglia, Margaret Atwood, Heather Rupp, Kim Wallen, Sylvia Plath, Sandor Ferenezi, Naomi Wolf, Colin Burrow, St. John of Patmos, Bibi Bakare-Yusat, Mircea Eliade, Dr. Spock, A.L. Rowse, among others. Was this to demonstrate how well read Croggon is or a subliminal effort to back her arguments? She does say she wouldn’t know where she would be without books.
Final thought. I this would have been a more enjoyable read, at least for me, if Croggon didn’t beat herself up so much. I grew weary of her self-accusing herself of crimes committed, calling herself a monster repeatedly, of having no hope, often announcing her traitor status, always being in the way, or being too late.
Author fact: Croggon has won awards for her writing.
Book trivia: Monsters is categorized as a memoir.
Playlist: Antony and the Johnsons, “You are My Sister.”