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The Lizard Cage [Paperback]

Karen Connelly
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

6 Mar 2008

Teza once electrified the people of Burma with his protest songs against the dictatorship. Arrested by the Burmese secret police in the days of mass protest, he is seven years into a twenty-year sentence in solitary confinement, cut off from his family and contact with other prisoners. Enduring the harsh conditions with resourcefulness, Buddhist patience and humour, he searches for news and human connection in every being and object that is grudgingly allowed into his cell.

Despite his isolation, Teza has a profound influence on the world of the cage. He inspires the conscience-ridden senior jailer to radical change. His very existence challenges the brutal authority of Handsome, the junior jailer. Even though his server, the criminal Sein Yun, sees compromising the singer as a ticket out of jail, Teza befriends him, risking falling into the trap of forbidden conversation, food and the most dangerous contraband of all, paper and pen.

Lastly there's Little Brother, an orphan child growing up inside the walls. Teza and the boy are prisoners of different orders, but their extraordinary friendship frees both of them in utterly surprising ways. Overturning our expectations, Karen Connelly presents us with a mystifying world that celebrates the human spirit, and spirit itself, in the midst of injustice and violence.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (6 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009950247X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099502470
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 286,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"So consummate is Karen Connelly's skill in The Lizard Cage that elements [of the life of a political prisoner in Burma] compel us to keep turning the pages. Her writing is muscular and taut, bringing inmates and warders fully alive. Impressive" (New York Times)

"Expertly constructed, often harrowing thriller" (Guardian)

"A chilling and powerful story" (Times Literary Supplement)

"In a feat of epic vision, Karen Connelly uses her every art to tell the urgent story of what the New York Times calls "Myanmar, arguably the most repressive regime in the world". The suspense never relents. Hope is small, but it lives, strengthened by this powerful book." (Maxine Hong Kingston)

"Connelly reminds me of Latin American writers and poets like Pablo Neruda, who wrote so eloquently about the ills of their homelands. Like these writers, too, Connelly finds beauty and kindness and the potential for redemption in the most unexpected places." (Toronto Globe and Mail)

Book Description

Winner of the Orange Broadband Prize for New Writers

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing Tale of a Shattered Country 22 May 2008
Nothing really happens in this book and the novel's climax is revealed within the first few pages. The events of this book though are incidental; the Lizard Cage is a book about people. It's a book about spirit. It's a book about love.

The 'Lizard Cage' is a prison in Burma filled mainly with political prisoners held by the country's insidious Junta. Karen Connelly skilfully peels off layer after layer of the corruption and brutality that affects every strata of Burmese life. Although the story is fictitious, Connelly's tale is all too real and makes for bleak reading.

The novel's mistreated prisoners are a metaphor for the shackled citizens of the country and her beleaguered characters display the spirit in adversity that Burma's citizens often show whilst living under the most oppressive of regimes. The Lizard Cage makes for bleak reading at times, right up to its incredibly bitter-sweet ending and is perhaps a little overlong. That said, this is a powerful, moving novel and anybody who has a passing interest in Burma or Human Rights should read it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading. 7 Mar 2011
By Wendy
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is not a pacy, intricately plotted story. It is extremely detailed and perceptive, though at times too drawn out, and it took me some time to get through it. But any time I was finding it too harrowing or tedious to read, I wondered how much more harrowing and tedious it would be to live under those conditions.I enjoy fiction which gives me a window into real-life events and places, (eg. Poisonwood Bible, Half a Yellow Sun, The Good Earth, Cellist of Sarajevo etc.) I know I should study them more formally, but find fiction more accessible. The Burma of this story seems very real and well researched and Karen Connelly's beautiful writing enables us to see and experience it through each of the characters all too well; a book to be admired rather than enjoyed. Leaves you feeling sad and uncomfortable.
I would also recommend 'The Glass Palace' by Amitav Ghosh; a tale of Burma's troubles in earlier times.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wow! 15 Dec 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the best novel I've ever read.
When I first got hold of it, I had a peep inside as I was walking home.I was unable to put it down and probably risked my life a few times, reading as I walked the streets.I am naturally quite a gloomy individual but this lifted me to somewhere special and new!
What I love most about the book is the circular nature of the plot.Many novels leave you hanging.You've enjoyed the body of the novel but this can't be sustained as it moves to a close and you're disappointed. I don't want to put in a spoiler, but this ending drives you straight back to the beginning for more and this process makes sense!
If you think Buddhism and yoga are daft.Read it.If you think Buddhism might help: read it.If you want to find hope in hopeless circumstances: read it.If you're a realist: read it:it's a treasure trove.
I can't believe this is her first work of fiction.Her skill with words is utterly engaging.Her character construction is vibrant.The plot is remarkable and has the internal action of a wild thriller.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling read 12 Feb 2014
By cronin1
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I love both the factual and the intimate storyline. You cannot be touched deeply by the accuracy of the tail and be totally engrossed with each character spinning a web of.intertwining coherency through a maze of suffering and acceptance and yet non acceptance! I literally could not put this book.down and was nearly late for work as a result. We all need to.take a.greater
role in Learning about far reaching corners of.the earth where just staying alive is a struggle. Be grateful for the life we lead, it's so easy in comparison!!!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A cleverly written, thought provoking good read 21 Oct 2013
Yet another gift, a book I probably would never have read if it had not been given to me, and yet another 'warning' about being too choosy in what we pick to read for ourselves. A very clever, well written - the authoress is a poet and this appears to come through in the style and flow of the writing- novel. That the end is given at the start does not detract from the story at all. Even for those without at least a passing interest in Burma, and those with a very limited knowledge of Buddhism (like me) will find this an absorbing read.
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