Osborne’s rich new novel (after the nonfiction Bangkok Days) follows British couple David and Jo Henniger into the Moroccan desert for a debauched weekend at their friends’ palatial ksar. Driving to the estate, David is distracted while arguing with Jo, and consequently hits and kills a young Moroccan. When they arrive at the party, corpse in tow, their hosts help David deal with the police while the servants keep vigil with the body. The next morning, the dead boy’s father, Abdellah, arrives and demands that David return with him to help bury his son. No sooner has David departed and left Jo behind than charming American Tom Day sets his amorous sights on the unhappily married Jo. Meanwhile, Abdellah weighs whether to avenge his son’s death by killing David. Although the Hennigers finally begin to scrutinize their choices (as unflinchingly as Osborne surveys his characters), their repentance may not be enough to sway their fates. With nods to Paul Bowles and Evelyn Waugh, Osborne portrays the vacuity of high society as gorgeously and incisively as he does the unease of cultures thrust together in the unforgiving desert. Agent: Adam Eaglin, the Wylie Agency. (Sept.)
Selected by The Economist as one of the Best Books of the Year 2012
Selected by Library Journal as one of the Year's Best Books 2012
Year's Best Books Chosen by Writers, selected by Lionel Shriver, The Guardian 2012
“A sinister and streamlined entertainment in the tradition of Paul Bowles, Evelyn Waugh and the early Ian McEwan….This is a lean book that moves like a panther. Even better, Mr. Osborne has a keen and sometimes cruel eye for humans and their manners and morals, and for the natural world. You can open to almost any page and find brutally fine observations….surprising and dark and excellent.”
—New York Times
“Extraordinarily acute to human nature….Stylishness holds the book together, and makes all the bits of plot machinery feel new again….There are enough ways to read the book that one finishes it and immediately wants to start it again.”
“A perfect storm of a novel.”
—Fredericksburg Freelance Star
"A master of the high style"
"Osborne writes mercilessly, savagely well. He excavates his characters, and the centuries-long cultural rift between the desert people and the Western infidels with a pathologist’s precision, wrapping fear, boredom, forgiveness, judgment, honour and sexual attraction into a novel that plunges with sinister pace towards its denouement."
—The Daily Mail
"Brooding, compelling...There’s a strong, almost old-fashioned moral force at work in Osborne’s novel... At the novel’s dramatic close, you could accuse Osborne of forcing the hand of moral come-uppance just a little too much — but it barely detracts from the tension he has maintained throughout the novel, and the pleasure of his bringing under such scrutiny the unpredictable behaviour of his morally tortuous characters."
—The London Sunday Times
“With nods to Paul Bowles and Evelyn Waugh, Osborne portrays the vacuity of high society as gorgeously and incisively as he does the unease of cultures thrust together in the unforgiving desert.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred)
“Osborne comes up with an ending that’s at the same time ironic, surprising and completely fitting. A gripping read with moral ambiguity galore.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“[A] brilliant, unsentimental rendering of contemporary East-West conflict and the imperfect human psyche….Osborne has done an extraordinary job of capturing moral complexity, never letting his characters or his readers off easy. The result should be grim reading, but instead it’s vivifying. Highly recommended.”
—Library Journal (starred)
“In the desert, all life and emotions are stripped to their very core. In his elegant and incisive second novel, travel-journalist Osborne hauntingly captures this exposed essence in all its inscrutable mystery and dispassionate brutishness.”
“No mere imitation but a contribution to the shelf on which The Sheltering Sky and The Bonfire of the Vanities also sit, The Forgiven explores the clash of two cultures, each of which feels superior to the other. Osborne's writing is uncomfortably well observed; his story is sickeningly, addictively headlong.”
—Lionel Shriver, author of We Need to Talk About Kevin
"The Forgiven shines darkly with a rich and mordant fatalism. Osborne's characters emerge like people in a dream – diamond-sharp but fascinatingly askew. His prose is gorgeous and precise; the story slices keenly through the exotic haze of its setting. It's an absolutely brilliant novel – the ending is a shock in the best way."
—Kate Christensen, author of The Epicure's Lament and The Astral
“The prose of The Forgiven has a very particular, knowing luminosity, much like the tarnished world it describes. A beautiful, compelling book to savor line by line.”
—Nikita Lalwani, author of Gifted
In Osborne's brilliant, unsentimental rendering of contemporary East-West conflict and the imperfect human psyche, there's a lot to forgive and no easy wrap-up. Bilious, alcoholic, chip-on-his-shoulder Englishman David Henniger is driving through the Moroccan night with his wife, Jo, on their way to a fabulously decadent weekend party at the desert villa of sort-of friends Richard and Dally. When two young men step out on the road, evidently hoping to sell fossils, a flustered and contemptuous David strikes and kills one of them. The body is brought to the villa, David is less remorseful than annoyed, and Richard is shocked by David's insensitivity while revealing deep-seated prejudices of his own. The alcohol-swilling, drug-dazed guests swirl away from the guilty couple, and, lest readers assume this is a finger-wagging tale about arrogant Westerners abusing saintly natives, the dead man's past is revealed in occasional flashbacks to be remorseless and ugly. Then the bereaved father appears. VERDICT Novelist and travel writer Osborne has done an extraordinary job of capturing moral complexity, never letting his characters or his readers off easy. The result should be grim reading, but instead it's vivifying. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 3/22/12.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Violence and debauchery in the Moroccan desert lead to cultural misunderstandings...and to more violence and debauchery. On their way to a weekend of free-wheeling partying sponsored by a gay couple, Richard and Dally, David and Jo Henniger meet up with something both unforeseen and untoward. Late at night, two young Moroccans, putatively selling fossils to tourists, crowd in on the Hennigers' car, and one of them, a young man named Driss, is run over. David checks to see whether Driss is in fact dead, and not knowing quite what to do, he and Jo put the body in the car and take him to the ksour of Richard and Dally's, deep in the Moroccan desert. The situation is complicated by several factors, including David's reputation as a drinker (and he had been consuming alcohol before the accident) and the suspicion of Hamid, a servant, that Westerners are utterly reckless and morally irresponsible. Although Richard feels there's nothing to worry about--for if necessary, the opinion of the local authorities can be bought--Driss' grieving father insists that David return the body and show at least some modicum of guilt and grief. While David is whisked away to Driss' home, Jo remains at Richard and Dally's. She's disgusted with her husband (and actually has been for years) and feels liberated in his absence. David's return in one piece is questionable. Osborne comes up with an ending that's at the same time ironic, surprising and completely fitting. A gripping read with moral ambiguity galore.