I was really looking forward to Lawrence Osborne’s new novel, The Glass Kingdom. I had read and greatly admired two of Osborne’s other novels: Beautiful Animals, about two young women on a Greek Island who set out to help a refugee they discover on the beach; and The Forgiven, a clash of cultures among Moroccan Muslims and Western visitors that results from a car accident.
Both of those books had complex characters, interesting moral dilemmas, and a strong sense of place and atmosphere. In comparison, The Glass Kingdom was disappointing. The novel starts by following Sarah, who defrauds a famous, but now senile, author she works for out of $200,000. She goes to Bangkok, where she hides out in the Kingdom of the novel’s title, a towering apartment complex.
The real main character seems to be the Kingdom itself, and so there are endless descriptions of the towers and the surrounding environs, and while the writing is moody and the place feels authentic, the story is dull and the characters ill-formed.
Sarah befriends a couple of other equally shadowy women in the Kingdom, who might be better at the con game than she is. As a main character, she lacks agency, and does some inexplicably dumb things for someone who is trying to lay low and keep a secret.
The point of view begins to wander to minor characters who as readers we know little about and don’t care a whole lot for. The story’s main question (What’s going to happen to Sarah?) gets answered, but I felt little satisfaction.
Oh, well. Even the best writers produce some duds.