Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Forgiven by Lawrence Osborne

Title: The Forgiven
Author: Lawrence Osborne
Themes: responsibility, forgiveness, colonization, "the Other"
Rating: ***

Plot: (from In this haunting novel, journalist and novelist Lawrence Osborne explores the reverberations of a random accident on the lives of Moroccan Muslims and Western visitors who converge on a luxurious desert villa for a decadent weekend-long party.     
     David and Jo Henniger, a doctor and a children's book author, in search of an escape from their less than happy lives in London, accept an invitation to attend a bacchanal at their old friends' home, deep in the Moroccan desert. But as a groggy David navigates the dark desert roads, two young men spring from the roadside, the car swerves...and one boy is left dead.
     When David and Jo arrive at the party, the Moroccan staff, already disgusted by the rich, hedonistic foreigners in their midst, soon learn of David's unforgivable act. Then the boy's irate Berber father appears, and events begin to spin beyond anyone's control.
     With spare, evocative prose, searing eroticism, and a gift for the unexpected, Osborne memorably portrays the privileged guests wrestling with their secrets amid the remoteness and beauty of the desert landscape. He gradually reveals the jolting backstory of the young man who was killed and leaves David’s fate in the balance as the novel builds to a shattering conclusion.

My Thoughts: I admit that I was thinking entirely of L'etranger by Camus when I first picked up this novel. Both address issues of colonization, relationships between the West/Middle East-Africa, murder, and obviously 'the Other.' Unfortunately the characters aren't entirely "fleshed out," and it can sometimes seem as though Osborne is writing about "poor, desperate post-colonial Moroccans" versus "decadent, imperialist Westerners" in a very cliched way. I think this is partly his writing style because the plot really does have a rather epic (morbid, depressing, hopeless) feel; the oppressive desert seems to have a life of its own as constant backdrop to the ridiculously decadent party David is headed to as well as the abject poverty the Moroccans face. However, occasionally Osborne moves away from the archetypes Camus utilized and creates individuals...admittedly not individuals that are very sympathetic, likeable, or "good" but individuals nonetheless. This keeps the novel from venturing too far into cliche or allegory, by making humans out of his characters Osborne has definitely created a more thought provoking story about Western/"Other" relations.

I'm still not sure what to think of The Forgiven, which is good because it forces thought! But it makes for a difficult review. I found the big bash thrown by Richard and Dally to be over-the-top ridiculous, the ease of bribing Moroccan police horrifying, and the ending rather abrupt after such a meandering story (it felt so languid and slow despite all the exciting events unfolding!).

Similar Reads: The Stranger by Albert Camus

Osborne, Lawrence. The Forgiven. London: Hogarth, 2012.

Reading Through June 1

Completed this Week:

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold
 The Curse of Chalion was an impulse buy when it was a Kindle Daily Deal one day...a few months ago? I had started it...gotten maybe a chapter in and was dreadfully bored and put off. When I had nothing else to read at work, I started plugging away at it again...and was amazed at how enjoyable it was. This books has interesting, dimensional characters, good (if stereotypical fantasy/medieval European-esque) worldbuilding, and a plot that kept me guessing. Overall, this book is about maneuvering in politics, spiritual power, and loyalty. I would recommend it, and I'm probably going to read more by Bujold.

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling
I'm not a huge Harry Potter fan. When a friend loaned me A Casual Vacancy I had serious doubts. I found the book rather forcibly "dark/grisly." With all that said. I enjoyed Rowling's newest novel immensely. Well. Maybe not "enjoyed" because it was terribly depressing; but it was an excellent read and went by very quickly for being just shy of 500 pages! This little examination of a small town after the death of a local Council member is fascinating. It hosts a wide cast of characters ranging in ages, interests, and personalities. The Casual Vacancy isn't about small town politics so much as it's about the everyday wars people wage. Children against adult, rich against poor, etc. I would recommend it.

Scheherazade's Facade edited by Michael M. Jones
I ordered this anthology of short stories of "gender bending, cross-dressing, and transformation" because it contains a new Tanith Lee story. But of course I found them all rather enjoyable. I found it odd that the over whelming theme was of men/boys "transforming" into women. I had expected a wide range of...well...gender-bending antics! I did enjoy the collection; but the stand-out stories were: "The Secret Name of the Prince" by Alma Alexander, "Keeping the World on Course" by Tanith Lee, "Treasure and Maidens" by Sarah Rees Brennan, and "Lady Marmalade's Special Place in Hell" by David Sklar.

Tenterhooks by Ada Leverson
Tenterhooks follows Love's Shadow where we are introduced to Edith and Bruce Ottley; she the perfect wife, and he a completely absurd hypochondriac (and more). This second installment follows a brief affection between Edith and a certain new friend introduced to her and her husband's circle. He is madly in love with Edith, and she is clearly devoted to her husband and two children...come what may. I didn't read this for plot, I read this for the delightful insight into "well off" London in the early 1900s, for the witty banter, and the absurdities of really must read them to understand how ridiculous it is.

The Forgiven by Lawrence Osborne

this novel will have it's own review since I received it through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. Look for it!

Belated 2012 Round Up

Books Completed: 130
     Pages: 45,194
     Fiction: 118
     Non-fiction: 12
     The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, I completed 11 books from this series in 2012.
     Zombies Versus Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larabalestier
     Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
     The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James
     The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
     Graceling by Kirstin Cashore
     The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
     The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
     Persuasion by Jane Austen
     Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker