The Moonlit Cage
In 1846, eleven-year-old Darya is on the brink of womanhood. Her dearest companion, her Circassian grandmother, regales Darya with tales of her own past as an Ottoman concubine, and the Englishman who was her true love, before ending her life as an Afghan widow. For Darya her grandmother predicts a destiny far across the ocean that brings only discontent and rebellion as Darya tries to make sense of it all. Darya’s odd behavior and a curse of barrenness make her a village outcast. The only husband her father can find for her is the second son of a nomadic tribal leader. Her husband beats her because she has not conceived. Learning of the curse, he threatens to kill Darya, and she flees. She spends several days scavenging for food before David Ingram, an enigmatic Englishman, finds her. He takes her to Bombay, where she finds employment with an English family. Another Englishman offers to take Darya to London. Mindful of her grandmother’s prediction, she agrees. Life in London is far worse than she had imagined: dangerous, even life-threatening for her. And once again, it is up to David to rescue her.
Holeman has written a suspenseful, entertaining novel. The portrait she paints of Afghanistan and tribal life in the time of the British Raj is brilliant. Her complex characters are likeable and easily capture the reader’s interest. She has created a heroine of immense inner strength and self-knowledge unique for a Muslim girl of her background.