Friday, February 24, 2006

'The Moonlit Cage' (Linda Holeman)

Chadari-draped Muslims are to current fiction what ornamental geishas were to 90s novels and, in a post-Taliban literary arena, Afghani is the flavour of the moment.

From The Bookseller of Kabul to The Kite Runner, readers are walking Kabul’s streets, exploring Jalalabad’s markets and climbing the Hindu Kush.

In The Moonlit Cage, Linda Holeman gives us Darya, a young Afghani. Too independent for her own good and too ‘wicked’ for her 1850s village, she is cursed by her father’s wife, shunned by her frightened community and locked into a fraudulent, brutal marriage.

But when Darya flees to Victorian London to save her own life, she finds it as unforgiving as the stark landscape of her origin: “I was overcome with deep, painful grief for all of us, for our women’s lives filled with…never-ending loss, a need to be loved and yet having it slide away.”

The Moonlit Cage is not unusual in a genre packed with similar plots, but it is richly textured, magnificently written and filled with imaginative characters. I’d even read it again.

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