> Skip to content

Book clubs  •  14 May 2019


The Cage - book club guide

Lloyd Jones’s fable-like novel The Cage is both profound and unsettling. We asked the multi-award winning Kiwi author to share the story's origins and create book club questions to help guide your discussion.

Where do stories come from? From within and without, or as some have it a story is both a mirror and a window. A swinging door between the world and the subconscious.  

The bones of The Cage are in the newspapers and on television screens every day.  Large populations on the move across international land borders and seas are a phenomena of our time. I was in Europe when the Syrian crisis broke, and happened to be in Budapest with my daughter when three thousand Syrian refugees were prevented boarding trains at Keleti Station —  in effect were kept hostage —  men, women, children, babies, the elderly.  

The unsympathetic reception of these refugees by the local population was deeply distressing and at times shocking. At the time I wondered what would happen if the same scenario happened at Wellington Railway Station. Would we behave with the same callous indifference and hostility ? 

The station at Keleti was in effect a cage for the Syrians escaping war. Their journey stalled by their failure to have registered as refugees at their first landfall, which for many of them was Greece. Well, what to do? They cannot return to have that moment over. They are not allowed to continue their journey for their failure to have done what EU rules require. Hence, a stalemate of Kafkaesque proportions.

What to write? And, why? 

I was working on a different project at the time. But, there comes a moment when something urgent arises . . .

It’s a feeling within. Something has to be expressed, and it has to be done so immediately.  It was this sense of urgency that produced The Cage. Sometimes, an allegory will address another book or, at the very least, events off the page. I don't think there is any mystery about what I am addressing.

People have described The Cage as a fable, and I am happy with that description so long as it is meant in the Kafka sense of a fable where the psychological conditions of place is foregrounded.  


Lloyd Jones' questions for your book club to discuss The Cage:

  1. Since I chose to write in the style of a fable – I wonder, does this demand a different way of reading?
  2. How does the novel reflect the refugee situation?
  3. Does the vagueness of location and of what actually happened to cause the strangers to flee their home help make the story universal?
  4. What effect does filtering the narrative through the young narrator have? For instance, where are your sympathies?
  5. What role does music have in the novel?
  6. Discuss the names I have used for the characters.
  7. What is the position of the witness? And, what is particular about the language that the witness adopts?

                                                                                                                                             - Lloyd Jones

The Cage Lloyd Jones

As the townspeople watch the strangers to discover their identity, we learn far more about the watchers than the watched.

Buy now
Buy now

More features

See all
Book clubs
Mirror Man book club notes

Ponder whether one life is worth more than another with Fiona McIntosh's latest thriller.

Book clubs
The Deep book club notes

This heart-stopping thriller set on the rugged coast of Tasmania is an excellent choice for book club.

Book clubs
The Chase book club notes

Track down your reading group to discuss Candice Fox's latest thriller.

Book clubs
Everything Changes book club conversation starters

Stephanie Johnson shares discussion points and questions for her new book Everything Changes in this book club guide.

Book clubs
Fragile Monsters book club notes

Sweep your book club off to Malaysia with this spellbinding novel of war and family betrayal.

Book clubs
The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot book club notes

A tale of extraordinary friendship and a lifetime of stories to share with your book club pals.

Book clubs
Thursday Murder Club book club notes

A classic whodunit for the most perceptive reading groups.

Book clubs
A Promised Land book club notes

Settle in for a memorable reading group discussion, with Barack Obama’s long-awaited memoirs: A Promised Land.

Book clubs
The Champagne War book club notes

Sweep your book club off to the sun-kissed vineyards of rural France.

Book clubs
The Silence of Snow book club conversation starters

Eileen Merriman, author of The Silence of Snow, has provided some background information on her latest book along with some discussion points for your book club meeting! 

Book clubs
The Tally Stick book club conversation starters

Carl Nixon shares some discussion points and questions for his new book The Tally Stick in this book club guide.

Book clubs
Shakti book club conversation starters

Rajorshi Chakraborti shares discussion points, ideas and questions for his new book Shakti in this book club guide. Special powers are gifted, but there is a Faustian price to pay in this epic novel, packed with laughter, darkness, pain, dreams, superpowers, love and light.

Looking for more book club notes?

See all book club notes