Conceived as a monument to all the victims of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, The Golden Cage follows the lives of Shirin Ebadi’s childhood friend Pari and her three brothers, as each of them subscribes to one of the different ideologies tearing the country – and their family – apart.
The stories of Pari’s three brothers – one a general devoted to the Shah, one a communist, and the youngest a fervent admirer of Khomeini – become a great way for Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi to present Iran’s recent history in a fairly unbiased way. And it works beautifully. Of course, it is clear throughout the book that the author has very strong personal opinions on the events described, but Shirin Ebadi does a very good job of balancing all the various points of view, and is not afraid of calling the different ideologies on their shortcomings, particularly as the leaders of each group betrayed the trust of their people.
This book is very history-heavy, as a basic understanding of this is key in understanding the story and the characters. I admittedly knew very little of Iran’s history, but found the story nonetheless very easy to follow, thanks also to the author’s thorough explanations and very easy and engaging writing style. I loved the image of the “golden cage” of ideology where each of the brothers ultimately traps himself: a beautiful and rich cage, but a cage nonetheless. And this is cage is what eventually destroys each of their lives, and their family as a whole.
A powerful reminder of the destructive potential of following an ideology blindly, this heartbreaking story is perfect for anyone wanting to learn more about Iran’s history and society through the eyes of a normal family.