Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Pink Cage on Tour

Today is Day 3 of The Pink Cage blog tour with writer and journalist Derbhile Dromey, and I'm particularly delighted to be part of it.

The original plan was to do a review alongside an interview with Derbhile, but due to my coughing illness, (and a desire not to spread germs to talented writers) the interview will happen later - which is all good because now I get the chance to talk in depth about the novel, with the added joy/interest that early next week, myself and Derbhile can chat.

Firstly let me just say, I met Derbhile via Twitter @ThePinkCage - I found her witty, interesting, and deffo someone whom I'm glad I followed.  Because I knew little of Derbhile before this blog tour, and I had not yet read her novel The Pink Cage, I was somewhat apprehensive about reviewing it.  What if I hated it?  What if I had to say things like - I really liked that the paper used was recycled, that for every tree felled, another tree was planted - or that I loved the cover because the beach does it for me, or pink is my favourite colour - I had plenty in reserve I guess, should the quality of writing not be as one might like.  Thankfully, even though I do appreciate that the paper used was recycled, and I am not adverse to beaches, or pink in the correct quantities, I don't have to reach for any of these references when reviewing this novel.

The narrative voice in The Pink Cage, is that of Astrid, a visually impaired freelance proof-reader and DJ who is persuaded to go on a skiing trip - definitely not your usual tag line.  I will be totally upfront here and say, I wasn't a lover of the opening pages, and initially felt like I was being transported into a world which I really didn't want to be in - honest reaction, I felt somewhat unsettled.  That being said, in hindsight perhaps this was a good thing, for the more I got to understand Astrid, the more I came to appreciate the constant struggle of balancing things physically and emotionally in a world not designed for her purpose. 

There were some descriptive passages which at first I was unsure of, but soon realised were part of the writer bringing me into the life of, yes you guessed it, someone with visual difficulties - a constant obsession with detail being a necessary tool in the illustration of how one might access a world where the slightest variance can create challenges - thus giving the reader the opportunity to be exposed in a way which otherwise they might not.

In what I had read about The Pink Cage, it seemed some found the character of Astrid unlikeable at first - that wasn't the case with me.  Maybe, I just got her hurt pretty early on, and found the desire to put a protection around herself, even to the point of alienating others, perfectly understandable, or maybe the writer just brought me to the core of her humanity rather quickly, particularly when her younger years were allowed breathe through the pages, and the smaller, trusting, loving Astrid, made sense of an at times, senseless world.

The story unfolds via present day reflections and flashbacks to childhood/teenage years.  All the time you are getting to know Astrid and the world she lives in by circumstances/characters which have shaped her life.  As a reader you can't help but relate to the younger Astrid, and wonder about the A-B of her journey to the present day.  Bottom line, I cared about her, and this is something which is only achieved in great writing.  For me Astrid was real.  Nor might I add, is it easy to write from a child's perspective, and the narrative voice in this work, does it brilliantly, unravelling in a non- pretentious, heartbreaking, humorous, real way, what it feels like to live in the exciting, scary, loving, lost, changing world of growing up, whilst seeing the world differently to many.

I particularly like books/writers which look at people in the margins, for often when you leave the stereotypical norms, a world, one which you might not have known, or appreciated appears, and this is after all what a great book is supposed to do, bring you somewhere new, change even a little about how you look on the world, question, revisit, reflect.

Another line associated with 'The Pink Cage' is the following: - "a novel about a love that's not quite forbidden."  Now I don't want to give too much away here, but love, confused, messy love, and sexuality form an important part of this work.  Astrid uses her sexuality as a type of front, the sexier the clothes, the flashier the shades, the shorter the skirt, the look at me mentality, I might be visually impaired but I am hot, sort of thing, is there from the opening pages, and right through.

What I liked about this angle, was how it exposed the way many of us use our sexuality as a protection, a front - I know certainly when I think of my early teens, or see young girls parading in clothes or lack of them, I just think, shit - for the most part they have no idea what they are dealing with.  Sexuality within teenage years and beyond is a complicated cauldron, and one which Derbhile Dromey does not shirk from, and I admire her for this.  And just like writing from a child perspective, writing about sex is not an easy thing to do well, but in this novel, the rawness, confusion, satisfaction, betrayal, often brutal elements are dealt with without the usual spoonful of sloppiness.

Another aspect of a good read, is when the more you read a book, the more you want to read it - I call it the 'curl up on the couch in front of the fire syndrome', and I certainly got that within these pages.  Derbhile joked about the novel getting me through my women flu, and it did - only regret being I didn't have more of it to last me through the entire illness.

Is there great writing in this book?  Yes.

Will you feel differently after reading it?  Yes.

Was it a story told well?  Yes.

Will it go on the Good Book shelf?  Definitely.

All great answers you will agree, but all the more surprising when you realise that this novel got 27 rejections from mainstream publishing houses - only to be picked up thankfully in the end by Book Republic - a boutique publishing house.

The Pink Cage, does not slot easily into what is believed to be popular fiction, and just to add in here, I am quite fond of popular fiction, because after all, it is popular - but books like this need to be published - Why?

So you and I can read them.  Reading this novel reminded me of something from years back.  I remember the first day I got my adult library ticket, as a young teenager, I spent the following year searching the shelves for many different books to read, and every now and then I fell upon a gem, one which changed me. The Pink Cage, I am happy to say is one of these.

The Pink Cage is available from the following:-

Amazon Paperback Version: http://amzn.to/qlX37Z

Amazon Kindle Edition: http://amzn.to/qrEDYL

The Book Depository: http://bit.ly/oKhh32

You will find Derbhile @ WriteWords Editorial 
& Twitter @The Pink Cage

Blog tour DAY 1 can be found HERE, & Day 2 HERE

DAY 4 on Derbhile’s blog tour will be the 22nd September with
 Michelle Moloney @ http://teachermoloneyking.com/


  1. Sounds interesting, (and it does have a gorgeous cover)and congratulations to the author:) now I'm curious about what kind of love is not quite forbidden...is it available in any bookshops do you know?
    great review Louise

  2. Just at the links above as far as I know - but the Book Depository offer it with free postage anywhere in the world @ €9.89 with 48 hour delivery.

  3. thats a pity, but free postage is good:)
    thanks louise

  4. Sounds good. I'll have to check it out :)

  5. This looks like a really interesting book. Anything that causes curl up on the couch in front of the fire syndrome has GOT to be good!

  6. Hi Emma, it is definitely a book of a difference - even for that reason alone is surely a worthwhile read.

  7. You have made me curious about this book, Louise! And thank you so much for pointing out how many rejections this author got; always helps us aspiring to get an agent and publish to know of a really good read that took some knocks before getting the recognition - but did get what it deserved, in the end. Inspiring.

  8. You should try to pick up a copy Cynthia - and yes it is encouraging:)


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