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  • Writer's pictureThe Fiction Fox

Review: Monstrum - Lottie Mills

Genre: Magical Realism, Short Stories Published: Oneworld Publications, May 2024

My Rating: 5/5 stars

“Then she takes her husband’s hand, and they follow their merman to the place where all strange, outcast things must be carried in the end. To the sea…”

There are only a handful of short-story collections I’ve rated a full 5-stars over the past few years. It’s only normal that you will enjoy some stories more than others, and having a collection with only outstanding stories is exceedingly rare. Monstrum is that exception. Each of these stories is a tentatively tender yet subtly dark exploration of Otherness in all its monstrous beauty. A lovesong to the Monstrous and living life on the margin, with a slight dissonant note to it; exactly the way I love it.

These stories read like modern fables about characters who are, for some reason or another, outcast by society for their differences, and now make a life in the margins. We’ve seen the trope done countless times, but Lottie Mills shows us a different angle. She shows us the beauty of that marginal life, and the strange but profound connections found within it. We find patchwork families, hybrid-bodies and queer love (romantic and otherwise) here.

The metaphors in here aren’t shy about their real world counterparts; there’s a lot of disability/chronic illness, bodily difference and queerness in the widest sense of the word in here. Yet rather than feeling on the nose, that clarity helps to ground the collection. Stunning prose and imagery, heartfelt connections and a final story that actually put a lump in my throat make this into a collection I will cherish and remember for a long time to come.

If you enjoy disability-fiction, queer magical realism, or stories that otherwise explore what its like to be “othered” by the world around you (think Kirsty Logan, Jen Campbell or Julia Armfield) this one is for you!

My personal favourite stories: The Changeling, The Bear-children, The Body, The Merman.

Many thanks to Oneworld Publications for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

You can find this book here on Goodreads.


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