The Golden Cage

Two years ago, Camilla Läckberg released The Golden Cage, a psychological thriller with a feminist plot and a noir vibe. I just got the audiobook this month and decided to listen to it as part of my Northern and Eastern Europe reading challenge. The book was translated from Swedish by Neil Smith, and the audiobook is narrated by Ann Richardson.

Summary

Faye escaped from a dark past before arriving in Stockholm. She soon fell in love with Jack, and now after a decade together, her life looks very different than it once did. She has also changed, and is essentially the mistreated housewife of an emotionally distant billionaire. When Faye discovers that Jack is having an affair, he announces that he wants a divorce, and she ends up with nothing. Faye is humiliated and angry, and she hatches a plan to get the ultimate revenge on Jack.

Review

Before I get into details, let me just say that The Golden Cage is a wild ride of a book. The characters are largely unlikable, the plot is sometimes rather unbelievable, and it weaves in numerous themes by the end. While it has its issues, though, it’s also intriguing and entertaining.

The first part of the book is presented in a dual timeline. In the early 2000s, Matilda has just arrived in Stockholm, leaving behind a painful past in her small hometown. She’d do anything to hide her past and start with a clean slate. Matilda decides to go by her middle name, Faye, from now on, effectively reinventing herself. Now, she’s confident and bold, and she’ll go after anything or anyone she wants. Soon she meets Jack and falls hopelessly in love. A decade later, she and Jack are married with a young daughter, he runs a billion-krona business (Compare, which Faye helped fund and set up early on, even if she gets no credit now), and Faye is a housewife and a shadow of her former self.

At this point in the book, it was hard to reconcile the bold, intelligent Faye of the early 2000s with the passive, pathetic Faye of the 2010s. She’s become a complete doormat who bends over backwards to please her husband. And Jack has proven to be awful: cold, judgmental, cruel, unfaithful… he really has no redeeming qualities. He’s emotionally abusive and impossible to please, and he doesn’t care about his wife or their daughter, Julienne. Faye has become insecure and clingy, and even when faced with his cheating and a divorce, it takes her some time to recover her inner strength.

The Golden Cage is a fitting title, especially during that first part: Faye lacks any agency while married to Jack. She seems to be living a life of luxury, but with power over herself or even equality within her marriage. Like the other wives of billionaires, she’s meant to look pretty on Jack’s arm, and once she’s not good for that, she’ll be replaced.

Now it moves into the second part of the book, which is all about Faye’s plot to seek revenge on Jack. It’s somewhat set up as a sort of feminist ploy, about rallying all the women who have been wronged by men and taking the power back. This whole section requires some suspension of disbelief: Faye finds a landlady to live with, who will ultimately going into business with her. Faye’s first step is setting up a dog walking business, which will allow her time to develop a business plan and an opportunity to lose weight. (She’s rather preoccupied with how she’s gotten “fat,” and her revenge plan requires her to be thin and beautiful again. Eh.) Soon enough, Faye has set up her own billion-krona business, and she intends to take over Compare and destroy Jack. This whole revenge-by-entrepreneurship thing is rather unbelievable… but it’s kind of a fun fantasy, I guess.

There are a few mysteries in The Golden Cage. One concerns Faye’s past and what really happened to her family. The reveal is saved until part three of the book, though I admit, I didn’t really understand why Faye was so adamant about keeping it a secret from everyone. (She never even told her best friend Chris or her husband Jack. No one knew!) And with that sad but anticlimactic backstory in place, I couldn’t understand why she (minor spoiler, but it happens early on) murdered a guy who figured her out. A definite overreaction, and it made me like Faye less and feel less sympathy for her. It was pretty random…

The biggest mystery, and the one that’s teased from the very beginning, is what happened to Julienne. What would lead Jack to murder his own daughter? This is saved for the very end, though I must say, I guessed how it would turn out about halfway through. It has some major parallels with Faye’s own family backstory, too, in a surprising ending twist.

One thing I liked about The Golden Cage is the relationships between women. Faye has a close friendship with Chris, whom she met when she first arrived in Stockholm to attend college. She also finds a great ally in Kerstin, her landlady and business partner, who becomes part of her “found family” in some ways. Faye’s business, Revenge, is all about women standing together, supporting each other, and getting back at the men who did them wrong. I don’t quite condone revenge, per se, but there’s a nice message in there somewhere.

It’d be impossible to leave out the multitude of sex that comes up in The Golden Cage. There are numerous sex scenes, the kind that feel icky and uncomfortable. It makes the book feel very noir. This novel is also very much focused on billionaires, rapidly successful entrepreneurs, and how money is power. The whole book is really about money, sex, and power, and how those combined can result in complete revenge.

Some dark themes arise in this book, too. (Apart from the murder, emotional abuse, cheating, and revenge.) There is also abortion, physical abuse, cancer, and (unexpectedly) pedophilia. Take caution if any of those subjects are sensitive for you.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot going on in The Golden Cage. A lot of it is outlandish, a lot of it is uncomfortable, and a lot of it I don’t really relate to at all. Even so, it is a fun and wild read, and I enjoyed it. The audiobook, which I listened to, is also very well done. Ann Richardson infused extra energy and intrigue into her narration that kept my full attention.

I was already partway through The Golden Cage when I found out that it’s the first in a series. This first installment feels wrapped up, but there is apparently more to the story! The second book, Silver Tears, is out now, so look out for my review of that soon.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Get the Book

You can buy The Golden Cage here – it’s available as a hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

The Golden Cage by Camilla Läckberg
SeriesFaye’s Revenge (#1)
TranslatorNeil Smith
Audiobook NarratorAnn Richardson
AudienceAdult
GenrePsychological Thriller; Nordic Noir
SettingStockholm, Sweden
Length of Audiobook11 hours
Format I ReadAudiobook
Original Publication DateMarch 21, 2019 (Swedish); July 7, 2020 (English)

Official Summary

An exhilarating new novel from a global superstar – a sexy, over-the-top psychological thriller that tells the story of the scorned wife of a billionaire and her delicious plot to get her revenge and bring him to his knees. 

Faye has loved Jack since they were students at business school. Jack, the perpetual golden boy, grew up wealthy, unlike Faye, who has worked hard to bury a dark past. When Jack needs help launching a new company, Faye leaves school to support him, waitressing by day and working as his strategist by night. With the business soaring, Faye and Jack have a baby, and Faye finds herself at home, caring for their daughter, wealthier than she ever imagined, but more and more removed from the excitement of the business world. And none of the perks of wealth make up for the fact that Jack has begun to treat her coldly, undermining her intelligence and forgetting all she sacrificed for his success. 

When Faye discovers that he’s having an affair, the polished façade of their life cracks wide open. Faye is alone, emotionally shattered, and financially devastated – but hell hath no fury like a woman with a violent past bent on vengeance. Jack is about to get exactly what he deserves – and so much more. In this splashy, electrifying story of sex, betrayal, and secrets, a woman’s revenge is a brutal but beautiful thing.

About the Author

Camilla Läckberg

Before she became one of Sweden’s most popular crime writers, Camilla Läckberg (b. 1974) worked as a marketing director and product manager for several years. Her first two crime novels, Isprinsessan (The Ice Princess) and Predikanten (The Preacher), received rave reviews from the Swedish press and quickly found a large readership. But her big breakthrough came when Stenhuggaren (The Stonecutter) was nominated for The Crime Novel of the Year award in 2005, and also when Olycksfågeln (The Stranger) and Tyskungen (The Hidden Child) were made lead titles in Bonnier’s Book Club.

Camilla’s books have gained even more popularity after being adapted into a TV-series, produced by SVT (Swedish Television).

In April 2017 her tenth book in the Fjällbacka-series, Häxan, was released – claimed to be her best novel so far! In 2019 Camilla received a diamond book for Häxan, since it has sold in over 300 000 copies in Sweden!

And in the spring of 2019 heralds the global launch of The Golden Cage, the first of two dark and suspenseful novels by Camilla Läckberg. After ten internationally bestselling novels and over 26 million copies sold, Läckberg’s next adventure will be a psychological suspense duology.

The Golden Cage was the most sold book in Sweden 2019.

More Books by Camilla Läckberg

Camilla Läckberg - Silver Tears
Camilla Läckberg - The Ice Princess
Camilla Läckberg - The Preacher

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