Book: Subjunctive Moods
Author: CG Menon
Publisher: Dahlia Publishing
Review by Heather Marks
Subjunctive Moods by CG Menon is a wryly observed collection of short stories written with formidable elegance.
A subjunctive expresses something that you wish for; a hypothetical rather than an actual situation. The title of CG Menon’s debut collection is well-chosen and speaks acutely to its theme.
In all of these tales, there is a sense of longing for what one does not have. Sometimes it is a loved one or a former version of them from a distant or rose-tinted past, and even another bodily form.
Menon’s storytelling skill reveals itself gracefully – her turn of phrase original and endowed with a revealing brevity. In Peacocks a mother’s smile is “glued on, hooked right over her ears in a stretched, make-the-best-of-it way” while in The Ampang Line – the story which won Menon the Bare Fiction Short Story Prize – female vampiric ghosts lay hidden in grass, “drenched, sodden and secret as a peach beneath its skin.” Menon’s prose is lush and enviably evocative.
Masks and monsters creep up regularly, making their presence felt in the polite facades of partners and frenemies, in a pregnant woman’s expectant womb and in an ageing wife’s yearnful escapism.
Mythological creatures – pontianaks, makaras and ghosts – move slowly and purposely through this collection, sometimes watchful, other times dealing delicate blows of cruelty to lives heavy with thoughts of what used to be.
Menon has captured the art of the short story and tells them with aplomb, finding the complexity in human relationships and slicing it open in measured, memorable strokes. The emotional devastation is timed to a ‘t’.
CG Menon has won the Bare Fiction Prize, the Leicester Writes Prize, The Short Story Award, the Asian Writer Prize, The TBL Short Story Award and the Winchester Writers Festival Award. She’s been shortlisted for the Fish Short Story Prize, the Short Fiction Journal Awards, as well as the Willesden Herald, Rubery and WriteIdea prizes and the Fiction Desk Newcomer Award. Her work has been published in a number of anthologies and broadcast on radio. She is currently studying for a creative writing MA at City University and is working on her first novel.