The Cage

Lloyd Jones / Text Pub­lish­ing / $30

Qantas - - Iq. -

When a pair of strangers turns up in a small coun­try town, the lo­cals are cu­ri­ous. Ob­vi­ously down on their luck, the men are dressed in rags, have no money and ap­pear to be on the run from some­thing. How­ever, they refuse to an­swer any ques­tions about the dis­as­ter that is pre­sumed to have be­fallen them. The lo­cals are ini­tially hos­pitable then wary. The men’s re­luc­tance to speak arouses sus­pi­cion, fol­lowed by fear. Sens­ing which way the wind is blow­ing, they try to slip away but the towns­folk turn vig­i­lante, hunt­ing them down and im­pris­on­ing them in a cage in the ho­tel’s back­yard. Their novice jailer, the young nephew of the ho­tel pro­pri­etors, feeds and wa­ters the cap­tives. He also has to re­port on their be­hav­iour to the “trustees” who run the town and dis­play a warped con­cern for the com­fort of their “guests”. Lloyd Jones, short-listed for The Man Booker Prize in 2007 for the multi-awarded Mis­ter Pip, has crafted a pro­found and un­set­tling al­le­gor­i­cal fable with his lat­est novel. Its pow­er­ful mes­sage cam­ou­flaged by al­most fairy­tale sim­plic­ity, The Cage ex­plores how quickly hu­man­ity and dig­nity can segue into bru­tal­ity when com­mu­ni­ca­tion breaks down. Trust is re­vealed as frag­ile, for­ever at the mercy of au­thor­i­tar­ian im­pulse.

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