The Ballad of a Small Player

Lawrence Osborne. Crown/Hogarth, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8041-3797-3
The latest from author and journalist Osborne (The Forgiven) is a searing portrait of addiction and despair set in the glittering world of Macau’s casinos. “Lord Doyle,” as he’s known to the other gamblers, is an English lawyer who has embezzled from a client and fled to Asia. Doyle spends his days and nights playing baccarat, which he calls “a game of ecstasy and doom.” At the tables he drinks fine wine, handles his cards wearing kid gloves, and slowly but surely loses. Doyle’s descriptions of the tables, the players, and the game’s siren allure are by turns touching, acid, and depressing. A fellow gamer has eyes that reveal “worlds of private pain.” A particularly garish casino inspires Doyle to muse, “There is something in kitsch that reminds you there is more to being alive than being alive.” But Doyle’s jaundiced eye barely masks his monstrous compulsion; indeed, the novel’s energetic portrait of the highs and lows of a gambler’s fortunes are as good as anything in the literature of addiction. Just when it seems Doyle’s luck may have at last run out, he’s rescued by Dao-Ming, a beautiful prostitute, whose genuine concern for him seems to rouse Doyle from his dissipation and downward spiral. But the novel subverts an easy storybook ending and reveals something much bleaker. Osborne’s intriguing Chinese milieu and exquisite prose mark this work as a standout. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/03/2014
Release date: 04/01/2014
Show other formats
Open Ebook - 118 pages - 978-1-306-53097-2
Hardcover - 224 pages - 978-0-09-959968-5
Open Ebook - 132 pages - 978-0-8041-3798-0
Hardcover - 272 pages - 978-1-78109-016-9
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-8041-3799-7
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Email Address


Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.