Shuchi Singh Kalra’s A Cage of Desires comments on the state of Indian marriages within a conventional family, while giving wings to the sexual identity of a woman. Renu is a married woman who, between taking care of her children, her father-in-law and the house singlehandedly, finds no relief for herself. Her loneliness and lack of affection in a loveless marriage urges her to get lost in the words of renowned erotic fiction author, Maya. This novel draws parallels between a woman subdued by patriarchy and a woman who is unafraid to give voice to her fantasies.
From the synopsis itself, I was intrigued by the premise of this novel because it promised a contrast in female character types that I’ve never read of before. We are introduced to the two personalities and how they differ from each other. Renu is shown to be meek, she doesn’t speak up for herself when she is mistreated by her father-in-law and husband. This habit of hers doesn’t prepare her for the continued suffering she gets subjected to. Maya, on the other hand, is someone who knows how to put people in their place, is extremely confident and unapologetic about her desires.
I didn’t like any of the characters in this book except for Renu’s friend Akriti. From the moment we are introduced to Arjun, I knew he was a good for nothing character. All of his portrayed charm signaled warning bells in my head. Renu, to me, came across as someone very selfish and often negligent of how her actions would reflect on her children. She has no self-respect and clearly doesn’t care enough about herself to keep from going back and forth between two horrible choices. The writing style is not flowery and distracting; you can breeze through the book. The chapters are short and comprise of some colloquial usages.
There’s a hint of mystery in the beginning that gets resolved by one third of the book. What I liked about the book is that it highlights the plight of married women doing thankless jobs and that it also strongly puts forth the idea of women owning their sexuality. But maybe if it had done so in a more appealing and ethical manner, I would have loved reading this novel. As of now, it’s my strong dislike for the characters that left a bitter taste. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad book, but I’d hoped to enjoy it a lot more than I did.
Ratings – 2.5 out of 5 stars
What do you get out of it? A taste of hypocrisy and patriarchal beliefs held by old-fashioned Indian families; a glimpse of what women have to go through to be heard and accepted for who they are.
Thank you Shuchi Singh Kalra for sending me a copy of your book in exchange of an honest review.