Robert Grieve, a 28-year-old English schoolteacher, begins his summer holiday in Cambodia by winning “two grand in dollar bills” at a borderland casino; Osborne’s sinuous, suspenseful novel traces Robert’s ensuing journey through a place where “karma swirled around all things.” Tired of his “claustrophobic and petty” life at home in Thailand, Robert seizes the opportunity that arises when suave, 30-something American expat Simon Beaucamp stylishly swindles him out of his winnings and his passport. Left nearly penniless in Phnom Penh, instead of going to the authorities, Robert invents a new name and identity and begins a relationship with the Paris-educated Sophal, herself at loose ends in the country of her birth. Meanwhile, the stolen money doesn’t benefit Simon and his Khmer girlfriend, Sothea, for long—goaded by paranoia and a shared heroin addiction, “they had taken off without much planning” and in the course of this haphazard trip encounter a violent force that also threatens Robert and his precarious new existence. Many of the characters seem like echoes of one another in various ways, which can take some getting used to on the reader’s part, and it isn’t always successful. What readers will remember instead is Osborne’s lush, vivid descriptions of a land where “the daily thunder rolled in with a generous laziness and the trees shimmered with lightning.” (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/23/2015 Release date: 01/12/2016 Genre: Fiction
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