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About the Author

Includes the name: Lawrence Osborne -

Works by Lawrence Osborne

Associated Works

The Best American Short Stories 2012 (2012) — Contributor — 350 copies
The Best American Science Writing 2003 (2003) — Contributor — 165 copies
Singapore Noir (2014) — Contributor — 61 copies


21st century (12) anthology (37) ARC (17) Asia (16) Bangkok (18) British fiction (10) Cambodia (24) crime (10) crime fiction (9) Early Reviewers (20) ebook (20) essays (26) fiction (178) food (14) France (12) gambling (9) Greece (14) history (13) Italy (9) Kindle (26) literature (13) memoir (22) Morocco (18) mystery (29) noir (10) non-fiction (78) novel (29) Paris (13) read (14) science (45) sex (11) sexuality (15) short stories (66) Singapore (11) Thailand (30) thriller (23) to-read (173) travel (83) unread (16) wine (76)

Common Knowledge



Narrated by Adrian Gyle an expat living in Hong Kong for 20 years, this story revolves around a crime but is not a detective, thriller or mystery, more a detailed observation of how the wealthy behave when the going gets tough and a discussion about how far we would go to preserve democracy.

Set during the pro-democracy protests, Gyle a reporter and Jimmy Tang his best friend from university days, spend their time eating and drinking, buying flash clothes and chasing women all funded by Tang who comes from wealth and who married into even more wealth. They are both in their mid fifties so it is a surprise when Tang turns up with a young woman in her early 20s, Rebecca To, who comes from a wealthy family but who is also an active protester in the rallies being held on the streets at night. Her death is a device used by the author to enable us to ask if Gyle has the courage to find out what happened and his friend's role in it.

The friendship between Gyle and Tang has always seemed solid, lasted for decades and felt unbreakable - not unlike democracy in Hong Kong - but all it takes is one incident for the wealthy to flee and cover up their tracks and for the young to take to the streets. I suppose Osborne is asking us what we would do if our democracy were threatened. Would we have the courage to protest, to try and change it? Tang and Gyle continue to eat out, drink and visit each other as if nothing is going on. Like the friendship, the deomcracy of the country is more fragile than you think despite its longevity and is slowly being whittled away. So, this is also a reflection on the differences in response between the younger and older, wealthier and poorer communities.

The place is described well, the heat and humidity referred to frequently, the food listed and restaurants where you go downstairs to eat. The atmosphere is heavy and oppresive and not a little febrile but has an important impact on Gyle.

In fact, at the beginning of that summer, when the disturbances had first erupted, I felt as though I were being woken from a deep and meaningless sleep. The city I had grown so used to - comfortable, cynical, overflowing with wine dinners and white-truffle events - was shattered the first moment I saw one of my neighbours wander onto Java Road at midnight in a white sleeveless shirt wielding a butcher's knife.

This idea of being like a sleeping beauty, woken by a threat is an interesting one, with more links throughout the story. China could be likened to the bad fairy Godmother who threatened the island when it was part of the UK. This 'awakening' means the downfall of the friendship with Gyle afterwards living his life seemingly without purpose. He ducked the issue when he had his chance.
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allthegoodbooks | 4 other reviews | Sep 26, 2023 |
Hong Kong after the handover, friendship, trust, struggle, exile, how to know other people. We will discuss this next Monday in our Book Circle.

The discussion went well, led by Chatterbox. A lot of the talk focused on the status of the narrator, Adrian, as an English reporter who quite deliberately exiled himself in Hong Kong just after the handover, because, he states, he couldn't see a future for himself in England. Of course, as the status of non-Chinese withers, he doesn't have much of a future in Hong Kong either, but he is drawn there by his very privileged friend Jimmy and the chance to observe the change.

Navigating the distances between the rich upper layer of Hong Kong society, the increasing control of the Chinese mainland, and the rebellion of the (mostly) student population, Adrian watches as his world becomes more dangerous for himself and others, the lies more overt, the ghosts multiplying. What does he really see?

Well-written, with references to both Chinese and European culture, noir but not a mystery. It would support a second read.
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ffortsa | 4 other reviews | Aug 29, 2023 |
OMG-I loved this book. Reverberations of a random accident on the lives of Moroccan Muslims and western visitors who converge on a luxurious desert villa. This is a real page turner full of brilliantly detailed and beautifully written prose.
GordonPrescottWiener | 25 other reviews | Aug 24, 2023 |
Girl Moves to Bangkok, Provokes Envy Despite Dastardly Past

How seductively Lawrence Osborne writes! His settings take on a dreamy, watercolor aspect, his characters flit mysteriously from scene to scene, taking up space in a world of metaphors under the surface, acting on half-revealed motivations while hurtling to some unforeseeable end. In this story, the Kingdom of the title is merely a high-end (although now-fading) apartment complex in Bangkok; here arrives our heroine Sarah by way of the US.

"Heroine" is a bit strong for this vague drifter, though. Sarah has landed like a leaf here in this teeming metropolis because she needs to lie low with her ill-gotten booty for a while. She figures that glamorous, busy Bangkok is a place where a young singleton white woman like herself will not be particularly noticed. Good thing that, because she's got a nice chunk of dollars in an actual suitcase which she's naively stashed under her bed. Suffice it to say that when she falls in a with a group of young neighbors, one of whom is the mysterious Mali, is when her cover begins to crack.

In keeping with local custom Sarah engages a maid, Goi. And with this begins the intrigue. You see, the Kingdom has its own hidden central nervous system: a channel of information, exchanged and used with ruthless efficiency as the only currency that matters. Who is spying on whom? There's the old maintenance man, Pop, too, who with uncanny accuracy keeps an eye on the strange farang woman. She's rather conspicuous: no job, no income, yet lives in an extravagantly large place AND is all on her own.

In the background is brewing an unrest. Something to do with protests, governmental shenanigans, police action, the threat of mob violence. Then something awful happens, not to do with any of that but within the Kingdom itself. Sarah is now hopelessly enmeshed for reasons of her own. Not surprisingly, someone begins to blackmail her. Then the actual big event happens in the city, the Kingdom loses electricity, and the residents each in their own way begin to trickle out.

All except Sarah, that is. She's rewarded for her vagueness with a shocking ending. There are several mysterious threads left unresolved even at the end: who is the child Sarah imagines is watching her? What was the episode with the meat left behind in Ryo's apartment? And so on.

However, what I enjoyed immensely was the setting. Living in an apartment somewhere in Bangkok for three months would be a dream come true for me, and so I sat back and reveled as our Sarah went about its canals, temples, markets, streets, cafes. Dreamy! (I'd devoured Osbourne's memoir of living in Bangkok.) I didn't even care about her wooly-headedness or the fact that she'd cheated a former employer. I was intrigued by the whisper network operating up and down the 24 floors and various towers of the Kingdom, wanting to know a bit more about Sarah's other acquaintances Ximena and Natalie, puzzling through the mystery of Ryo.

Slow, atmospheric, steamy, intriguing and a little chilling and desolating at the end, read for heavy doses of travel-longing. Not heavy on plot but on thematic development, be warned of that, but if you can manage to arrange some warm weather, a cold drink, and a comfy sofa with the fan going just so, pick up The Glass Kingdom. And enjoy.
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dmenon90 | 5 other reviews | Aug 11, 2023 |



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