“To every Phoenix that rises from the ashes” is on the beginning to the book and I was quite intrigued by it. I love the story of the Phoenix and consider myself one; in fact I believe most people go through a fire of hardships to rise again as stronger human beings. So on this exciting premise, I eagerly began to read A cage of desires and then I couldn’t put it down.
Title: A cage of desires
Author: Shuchi Singh Kalra
Publisher: Penguin India
Shuchi Singh Kalra is the Amazon best-selling author of two novels – Done with men and I’m Big. So what? Her short stories have appeared in Love across Borders, Stories for your Valentine and NAW anthology 2013. She focuses her writing on women centric issues and is listed among the top women authors to follow on Twitter.
Renu is a middle-aged housewife who lives a rote life between upbringing her two children, caring for a cantankerous father in law and her household chores. Her husband Dev is an absent partner as he has chosen to relocate for work in a nearby town. He comes home infrequently and when he does, his wife is last of his concerns.
Renu feels stifled and unloved but doesn’t know how to escape from it. Her parents had separated during her school days and neither had time for her in their new lives. Her FIL frowned on her spending time with neighbourhood ladies; as a result Renu was quite friendless.
Night time when she could be all alone in her room is what she looked forward to after an entire day of care taking every household need. That’s when she indulged in writing down her thoughts on paper- a catharsis of sorts for her. To sate her sexual urges, she indulges herself with sexual fantasies and masturbation.
The Indian literary world was being shaken by women writers who were putting sexual desires of a woman on the map by writing books in it. One such prolific writer was Maya whose books were being lapped up eagerly by one and all. But no one knew who Maya was as she preferred anonymity over stardom.
Her FIL goes ballistic when he catches his granddaughter reading this trash. Renu too has a secret stash of all the books written by Maya and seems to be quite a fan. She is majorly perplexed to see Maya being researched on her desktop as is visible from the browser history and wonders if it’s her husband.
All was going well in the world when Arjun stepped into her life to rent out the spare room on the terrace. Renu finds him forward in his interactions with her. At the same time she is attracted to his masculinity and rugged good looks. As fates would have it, this leads to a serious infatuation, culminating in sexual relations between them.
And then the world takes a huge tumble for Renu who goes from being ordinary to needy to broken to glamorous and finally to healing. Her inner strength and mental sanity are tested to breaking point just like a Phoenix who moults over to burn to death, only to rise from its ashes.
Lasting impression on me
The book begins well and I loved how the characters are sketched out. Renu feels so familiar as if I know her or have met her before. Her relationship with her children is very well set. Her routine life and inner desires seem so real and honest. I loved the scene where she tackles her daughter reading erotica and answers her questions so effortlessly – such a viewpoint about sex and a child’s curiosity over it is much-needed in our society.
The jarring bit came for me in her husband Dev whose character is not very well etched nor is their marriage. It seems the marriage just began, had two kids and then the two drifted apart. His move from the family to a remote area is perplexing and I couldnt wrap my head around this. Especially as Renu accepts it all too calmly without any protests. She still desires him but he is not in love or lust with her anymore. Moreover his extra marital affair came across as very filmy and flimsy to me.
Second character who perplexed me is Arjun. He is the ultimate seducer at first and that bit is written well. What I got weirded out by is his bizarre mood swings and how he feels about Renu. Sometimes so much in love with her and other times so mean and ruthless. His yo-yo behaviour is what I couldnt connect with. I am unsure whether the author is portraying him as calculating, shrewd and arrogant or plain weak. Even till the end, the last meeting with Renu – were we feeling sorry for him or happy that he got his comeuppance?
Renu’s fixation with him was understandable initially. But later with his changing behaviour, her letters didn’t make sense to me. She seemed to understand the status quo on the surface but in the letters she takes all the blame and absolves him – I couldnt reconcile with this bit at all. Here is a woman who is not afraid of expressing her sexual desires, enough to write them into books and yet when it comes to the jerks in her life; she is back to blaming herself. Even her attempted suicide seems to meaningless and out of sync with the story line. Her rise from the ashes is a bit flawed for me – I guess I wanted to see her stronger and imagined her so in my head.
The overall story line and plot was very interesting and the first half had me gripped but the second half of the book lacked the grit and let me down in my expectations from the tale. I must confess the filmy twists in the tale were not up to the mark for me but then I have to remind myself that this is chic Lit 😉
What I really came away from this book is Shuchi’s writing style which is quite young, fresh and enthused, She writes in a no-bullshit tone and is not afraid to go where most don’t dare. The sensibilities she has explored in this tale are brave and need of the hour. Her sex scenes are real, sensuous and steamy without being cheap or vulgar or contrived. Great research there 😉
I am giving an impartial 3 stars to this book – its my first read of this author and I am quite keen to now explore her other books. I hope you guys check out the giveaway in one of my earlier post on Shuchi Singh Kalra where she has a candid chat with us about her writing journey!
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A linky to celebrate the release of the third book for Shuchi Singh Kalra. You can add your blog post URL if you have done a book review for A Cage of Desires on this post by sending me the link for it.
At the end of the linky, one lucky winner will win a personally signed journal from the author.
Linky start date is 12th june 2018 and ends on 10th July 2018
Prize will be mailed to an Indian postal address.
Minimum three entries for the judging process.
Author’s decision is final and no correspondence on the same will be entertained.
Pls add the line ” Linking up with Shalzmojo for the #MAYA book review “
Please tweet the post URL tagging me and Shuchi onto it with hashtag #MAYA
- Read the review done by Anupriya here