Trending News

Get Your Daily Dose of Trending News


‘The Golden Cage’ by Camilla Lackberg book review


Läckberg describes the temporarily satisfying results in dirty detail, but we readers already know this marriage can’t be saved, for Läckberg prefaces this sordid sizzler of an opening with a one-page introduction, referring to events that will take place much later in the novel. In that preface, Jack (referred to as Faye’s “ex-husband”), has just been arrested for the murder of the couple’s 7-year-old daughter.

Läckberg has made a career out of writing ingenious psychological suspense stories about vile people doing vile things. In her novels, the world is not “hygge” — that trendy Scandinavian term for cozy, featured in the likes of Ikea ads heavy on sheepskin throws and lumpy knit lampshades. (This is another way in which Läckberg differs from Christie, whose appeal is very much about restoring a disordered world back to a state of hygge.) “The Golden Cage” tells a nasty tale about entrenched male domination in a supposedly enlightened society; great wealth and the soul rot it can breed; and the payback — oh, the sweet, sick payback of a woman used and spurned, rising up from the discard pile.

Faye is the malicious centerpiece of this thriller that jumps around in time. A beautiful young woman from the small vacation town of Fjällbacka (where Läckberg herself was born and where some of her other stories are set), the teenage Faye arrives in Stockholm to study at the prestigious Stockholm School of Economics. There she meets and falls into an erotic relationship with the charismatic Jack Adelheim. While she’s still in school, Faye collaborates with Jack and his best friend in launching a telemarketing company called Compare (the provocative name is Faye’s idea) that becomes fantastically lucrative. After her marriage to Jack, Faye willingly packs her brains into storage and transforms into a glitzy showpiece. On a shopping trip early in the novel, she smugly thinks to herself: “Stockholm was a jungle in which she and a handful of other millionaires’ wives were the queens.” Many years later — after a stunned Faye discovers Jack having sex with another woman and the couple divorces, she will found another, even more successful, company called Revenge.

Läckberg’s prose style (as translated by Neil Smith) is flat and direct. Readers aren’t taxed to unpack imagery or allusive language. Here’s Faye — again, from that steamy first scene — lustfully spying on her husband as he raids the refrigerator:

“The light in the fridge lit up his face and she couldn’t take her eyes off him. She loved him. Loved his broad back. Loved his big hands, which were raising a carton of juice to his lips. Soon they would be on her … Dear God, how she longed for that.”

D.H. Lawrence Läckberg is not. Workmanlike titillation aside, the lure of “The Golden Cage” lies in the moral ambiguity of its heroine: Even as Faye wages a delicious “First Wives Club” campaign of retaliation and humiliation against the feckless Jack, we readers sense she’s not someone we should blithely root for. There are hints embedded throughout the novel that Faye has perpetrated acts of violence in her childhood and youth, and she lies (even to Jack during their marriage) about her origins and birth name. Who knows what she may be holding out on us?

Readers will find out the answer to that overarching question in the very last sentence of this novel. It’s one of those revelations that will make some of us say, “W-h-a-a-a?” I’m one of those readers. Unless I’ve missed some crucial clue, I can’t see how the ending of “The Golden Cage” makes any sense. But if you read all the way to the end, you’re probably not primarily concerned with rational satisfactions anyway.

Maureen Corrigan, the book critic for the NPR program “Fresh Air,” teaches literature at Georgetown University.

By Camilla Läckberg, translated from the Swedish by Neil Smith


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *