Girl In A Golden Cage is about Francesca Milliardo as she discovers she has an extraordinary and supernatural talent. She visits her rich father in Milan, and enjoys a life of glitz and glamour – a refreshing change from her home in the UK, but slowly begins to feel more unsettled.
From my understanding, Girl In A Golden Cage is the sequel to A Rarer Gift Than Gold, which I’m only just realising now. I haven’t read A Rarer Gift Than Gold, which, according to Amazon, is about Abigail Argent, a skilled craftsman, who can enhance the beauty in metal sculptures. She discovers her craft is linked the art of alchemy*, and uncovers a dangerous secret.
*Alchemy is a philosophical and protoscientific tradition with the aim of purifying certain objects. I had to look it up.
Although Abigail features in Girl In A Golden Cage, I don’t think I’ve missed out, despite not reading the first book. Francesca is a new character, and we explore the seemingly luxurious and wonderful Italian through her eyes – not Abigail’s – and watch her gradually uncover her father’s deception.
There are lots of Italian references (obviously) and a lot of artistic language and description. I didn’t really understand these parts – I’m not a very artistic or multi-cultural person, but I am confident Branch knows what she’s talking about. Amazon lists some of her achievements, such as studying at University College London, The Royal College of Art and Victoria Albert Museum and being a restorer of public sculptures and historic features.
My favourite aspect of this book were Francesca’s “out of body” experiences; they were supernatural, but not scary. While I don’t believe in “out of body” experiences in real life, I think it’s a fascinating subject to write fiction about, and made the storyline enjoyable.
While I liked the character of Lorin, I thought his motivations for involving himself Francesca were a little predictable. I didn’t feel that their connection was “real”, despite Francesca believing she was in a genuine and trusting relationship.
Also, I’m not sure what genre Girl In A Golden Cage is meant to be – it’s very difficult to pin down. There’s suspense, but it’s not wholly a mystery novel. There are some violent moments, and criminal activity does crop up, but I don’t feel like there’s enough to classify it as a crime novel. If anyone has any suggestions as to a genre which best fits this book, I’d be glad to hear them.
For me, the main let-down of Girl In A Golden Cage was a little too much unnecessary dialogue and the subsequent description of speech acts (e.g. he said/she said). I’m a strong believer in not overusing dialogue (or obvious narration) to convey basic information. For example (this is not lifted from the book, but an exaggerated example), I prefer to interpret a speaker’s body language, for instance, based on the way they speak and the character traits that have already been assigned to them, rather than a descriptive line of dialogue such as: “I am very annoyed” said the man, in a frustrated tone of voice, folding his arms and scowling.
On the whole, despite not reading A Rarer Gift Than Gold (oops), I managed to enjoy Girl In A Golden Cage and thought it was a good book, although I can’t put into words exactly why that is!
Star Rating: 4/5 Stars