The Moonlit Cage

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Overview

Daryâ’s simple life in mid-nineteenth-century Afghanistan is torn apart when a hateful curse by a jealous tribeswoman leaves her an outcast in her small Muslim village. She looks to her arranged marriage to the son of a nomadic tribal chief with hope that it will deliver her from this oppression; instead, Daryâ finds herself regularly beaten by her wrathful husband, and more isolated than she can bear. Seeing no choice other than to flee from her torment, Daryâ barely escapes ...
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Moonlit Cage

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Overview

Daryâ’s simple life in mid-nineteenth-century Afghanistan is torn apart when a hateful curse by a jealous tribeswoman leaves her an outcast in her small Muslim village. She looks to her arranged marriage to the son of a nomadic tribal chief with hope that it will deliver her from this oppression; instead, Daryâ finds herself regularly beaten by her wrathful husband, and more isolated than she can bear. Seeing no choice other than to flee from her torment, Daryâ barely escapes through the foothills of the Hindu Kush.

Destitute and alone, Daryâ meets David Ingram, an enigmatic Englishman traveling in Afghanistan. Although he is a complete stranger, she joins him on his journey to Bombay—and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime. Ranging from the arid Afghan plains to the lush tropical villas of India, across mighty seas to Victorian London’s fetid streets, The Moonlit Cage is an intense and sensuous story of love, loss, and redemption.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Holeman (The Linnet Bird) explores the fate of a willful Muslim girl in this exotic and expansive coming-of-age historical romance. Growing up in 19th-century Afghanistan where women are expected to be obedient and subservient, young Daryâ dreams of adventure and freedom. "I could not be obedient," she laments and is consequently cursed by her father's second wife and sold to an abusive nomad. Fearing for her life, she runs away and is rescued by David Ingram, an enigmatic Englishman. He's the first man to show Daryâ kindness, and during a long, perilous journey to Bombay, she falls in love with him. Suppressing his own feelings, David arranges to leave Daryâ behind in India while he returns to England. Desperate to rejoin David, Daryâ agrees to travel to London as the companion of the shady Osric Bull, though he has sinister plans for her. The narrative falters when the setting shifts to London, but fans of the genre will appreciate the vivid rendering of tribal life and the sobering look at what it means to live where it's believed "[m]en are created to enjoy; women to give enjoyment to them." (Mar.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

Darya, a young Muslim girl, has lived her whole life among family and friends in a small village on the border of Afghanistan and India, yet something in her rebels at the social constraints placed upon her. She need not yearn for change, as it is forced upon her by her stepmother, who trades her in marriage to a stranger from another tribe. Darya must accept a nomadic life among a people who both despise her and are threatened by her intelligence. The story follows Darya as she endures cruel treatment by her husband and finally manages to escape, first to India and then to London. Holeman (The Linnet Bird) is quickly establishing herself as a writer who portrays women of the Victorian era as three-dimensional characters with desires, strengths, and flaws. Readers familiar with Emma Donoghue's Slammerkinwill love this new book, as will those intrigued by stories of the Middle East. Fans of romantic historical fiction will be recommending it to their friends. Recommended for public libraries, especially those with large historical fiction/romance collections.
—Marika Zemke

Kirkus Reviews
Biology looms as destiny, then becomes a spur to freedom and accomplishment in the Canadian YA author's heartfelt second adult historical (after The Linnet Bird, 2005). It's a carefully researched portrayal of three 19th-century cultures, centered in the figure of its narrator, Darya, a young Muslim woman we first encounter in her tribal village in Afghanistan. Exhibiting both high spirits and a hunger for "forbidden" knowledge (she furtively reads her father's copy of the Qur'an), Darya incurs the anger of her domineering father, and is further oppressed by the new wife (Sulima), whom he takes when her mother fails to bear him a son. And when Darya finds Sulima in the embrace of another man, her irate stepmother pronounces a curse of barrenness on the girl. Her father sells her to a nomadic tribe, whereupon she becomes the abused wife of a haughty chieftain's son, Shaliq. It seems she'll never fulfill the independent destiny toward which her late grandmother Madar Kalan (the only strong woman Darya has ever known) had pointed her. The best sections here are in these potently detailed early chapters, succeeded by Darya's escape from Shaliq, passage to India (Bombay) accompanied by mild-mannered Englishman David Ingram, who, for reasons of his own, cannot be the man she desires and needs, and thence-as the traveling companion of an exploiter ("Mr. Bull") who might have come out of a Dickens novel-to Victorian London, which is itself something less than a nirvana for a woman alone. The choice of Darya as narrator provides needed unity and elicits reader empathy, but limits Holeman's somewhat oblique presentation of cultural inequities and ironies. Still, her heroine's tale is a stirring andexemplary one, and the novel seems a natural for reading groups. Oprah's audience might very well enjoy and admire this one.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307346490
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/27/2007
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 1,343,939
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

LINDA HOLEMAN has been a writer-in-residence,
editor, and teacher of creative writing. The author of The
Linnet Bird, she lives in Winnipeg, Canada. You can find out more about her at www.LindaHoleman.com.
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Reading Group Guide

1. Answer the question the novel’s narrator, Daryâ, poses in the prologue: “Read my story, and as you do, ponder this question. Am I truly wicked? And when it is over, you can be the judge.” (page 2).

2. Mâdar Kalân, Daryâ’s grandmother, looms large in Daryâ’s life, more so after the old woman tragically dies. Why does she have such an impact on Daryâ? What effect do Daryâ’s grandmother’s words have throughout the novel?

3. The book opens with a poem by the Sufi poet Rumi, “Some Kiss We Want” (page vii). What does this poem mean in the context of what occurs in The Moonlit Cage? At points in the novel, Daryâ repeats this quote from Rumi: “Live where you fear the most,” (page 236). What does this statement come to mean for Daryâ?

4. “I knew that day that I possessed power. And once I allowed it to flow through me, it was as impossible to rein in as the swollen river that overruns its banks,” (page 25). Power and strength are prominent themes throughout The Moonlit Cage; talk about what kind of power was at Daryâ’s disposal and how she uses it, and about what strengths she exhibits.

5. Why is Daryâ so intimidated by her father’s wife Sulima? Are Daryâ and Sulima similar in any way? Consider the curse of barrenness that Sulima sets upon Daryâ; why is this such a horrible affliction for a woman in her culture?

6. Discuss the role of religion in the novel. In terms of Islam, why do you think Daryâ takes refuge in a religion that shuns her as a woman? How do her feelings toward her faith change as the novel progresses? What do you think of the prejudice Daryâ experiences on the part of Hindi women she meets in India, the Christians, and others in London?

7. “My feelings for my mother were more complex” (page 11), says Daryâ. What are Daryâ’s feelings for her mother, and why are they complicated? How are her feelings for her mother different than those for her father? How do Daryâ’s feelings toward each of her parents change as the novel progresses?

8. What do you think of David Ingram? How do you think his heritage shaped his personality? Did you expect that he and Daryâ would ultimately end up together? Why or why not?

9. “It would be now as it had been on the caravan from Sukkur: our differences–not just man and woman, but color and position–completely clear” (page 278), Daryâ says. What are the differences between herself and David that Daryâ refers to?

10. Should Daryâ have accepted Osric Bull’s offer to take her to London? Why doesn’t she leave sooner, when she discovers his nefarious purpose for bringing her to his home? When David comes to Bull’s house to rescue her, why does she push him away?

11. Consider the role of women in The Moonlit Cage. How do cultural and religious influences contribute to the perception and treatment of females, from Daryâ’s Tajik village to the streets of London? The novel’s events take place 150 years ago; how and where have these attitudes changed, or stayed the same, since then? “We were women, brought to places by men,” Daryâ observes in chapter 38 (page 384). Is this sentiment really true in Daryâ’s case?

12. One of the novel’s themes is that of home. What does home mean to Daryâ, to David, to some of the other characters?

13. Did it surprise you to learn in the epilogue that Daryâ and David were having a child? What about Daryâ’s premonition that the baby will be a girl? Does the dream she describes in chapter 18 (page 162) foreshadow the book’s ending?

14. What do you think the book’s title means?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    fabulous historical tale with comparative cultures

    The Moonlit Cage Linda Holeman Crown Three Rivers, Mar 2007, $14.95 ISBN: 0307346498 --- In 1845 Afghanistan, Darya dreams of freedom to do whatever she wants including reading the Qur¿an in public and visit some of the locations she has heard about mostly from her grandmother. However, Darya knows that is a fantasy because a female must obey males. Over the next decades her father is outraged by her behavior as he considers her wicked, but it is his second wife Suluma who takes action by cursing her and arranging for her father to sell her to the abusive son of a nomadic tribe chief. --- Desperate to escape her even tighter bonds, Darya flees. English expatriate David Ingram escorts her to Bombay where he leaves her as he continues on the England. However, Darya misses the kind Ingram, who she loves. She arranges to travel to London escorted by Osric Bull, who has other plans for the exotic beauty. --- The Asian chapters are superb insightful look at the mid-nineteenth century even filtered through the heroine¿s perspective. The story line remains strong when Darya travels with Bull, but loses some of the uniqueness that will stun the audience as the Afghan tribal culture insures that the role of women is to pleasure men. When she reaches 1850s London, Darya anticipates freedom only to find a single female still has almost no rights as high society assumes they are there to ease a man¿s burden. Her revelation keeps her fresh as THE MOONLIT CAGE is a fabulous historical tale that fans will appreciate. --- Harriet Klausner

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