[Book Review] A cage of desires by Shuchi Singh Kalra

“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

Genre: Fiction

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.

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Synopsis:

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 😉

My rating:

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!


This post contains an affiliate link and if you make a purchase via it, I will make a small commission.

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
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

 

 

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Passionate about everything design, I am in love with photography, travel and baking. My writing journey was initiated with my letter writing hobby as a child and has metamorphosised into serious blogging. I indulge with reading fantasy fiction, day dreaming and sipping good wine.

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  1. A very brave book by Shuchi SIngh Kalra, as well as a brave review by you, Shalz!
    I think women writers are being much more adventurous and courageous nowadays. Am I right? We so need more such writers, who can write a story without making it sound cheap or vulgar.
    Seems like a good book. One that I might pick up!

    • Thanks so much Shilpa – this is not really a genre I read much but was curious about the Phoenix 🙂 I am glad you liked the review – I had a book giveaway on my blog in the first week for this book – wish you could have won one copy then!!

      I agree we need such bold and brave writers who can voice their opinion over taboo topics and bring them to light!

  2. More power to writers like Shuchi who bring on such courage into writing and expressing about things that not many women venture into! Your review made me want to pick up the book and read, Shalz, even though it isn;t exactly my kind of genre. Thanks for sharing such an honest review.

    • I know what you mean Esha – this is not my kind of reading too. I am glad the honesty in the review is coming out – really realy glad to hear that. Incase you do read this book, would love to know your take on it too! 🙂

  3. I was always aware that you were frank and forthright in your opinions, Shalini and I am glad to see that the same translates to your book reviews too 🙂 The review is written very well, exploring both the complexities of the plot as well as the characterisation.
    It’s not a genre that I read but it’s very well reviewed. Well done. Kudos to the author for being bold in her portrayal of taboo topics. I’ve noticed that about her on social media too. Takes courage to be that way 🙂

    • Oh wow- thats hugely high praise Shy – I am so so glad to read these words from you! Thank you! Not saying anything more as I am doing a happy dance right now 😉

  4. I would like this book simply for the bravery in talking about the desires of a staid married woman. A lot of such women, caught up in home and children and are perceived as asexual. To that extent it should make for an interesting read. I just might pick it up.
    I loved your review. The good and the bad are all set out for the reader. This is just the way a review should be done.

    • Thanks Tulika I am so glad to hear that this review has been liked for its honesty! I hope you do get around to reading this book 🙂

  5. Interesting storyline, Shalini. And quite realistic. I’ve known Shuchi for some years and remember reviewing her “Done with men” which was an enjoyable read! Will read this book. Thanks for the honest review.

    Take care!

    • Thats true Vidya – I hope you do get to pick this book for a read. Thanks for the feedback on the review 🙂

  6. This book is not from the genre I prefer to read but I am bowled over by the honesty of your review. You have put it out straight for the readers to figure out which way the positives and the negatives will bend for them to or not to pick up the book. Yesterday as I was writing my review for a KidLit, I was wondering whether or not I should put out that a certain portion was confusing for me. At the end, I decided to go ahead and write it as I felt. I definitely have got certain things to learn from you.

    • Oh Wow Anamika – you just brightened my day like a Supernova. You are one of the book reviewers I look forward to and hearing such high praise about my reviews is just making me bask like a cheshire cat you got the entire bowl of Gulab jamuns to herself (I hate cream 😉 )
      I was apprehensive about being so brutally honest as I know Shuchi personally, but she is the one who made me promise I will deliver an honest review! I am so glad I did as thats the best thing peeps have liked about it! 🙂

  7. This is a really crisp and comprehensive review, Shalz. Doesn’t feel like a book that i’d pick up but you have listed out the pros and cons well.

  8. I have read Suchi’s other book “ I am big so what” and while the title hooked me on and I loved the first half, I found the second one too filmy and the book lost its charm for me. Hence I was hesitant to pick this one. Your review is well written Shalz. Impartial!

  9. I liked your review, Shalini! Also, such bold subjects appeal to me. Haven’t read the author before, but this one looks an interesting read!