In this stylish, 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 children's book author, in search of an escape from their less than happy lives in London, accept the invitation of their old friends Richard and Dally to attend their annual bacchanal at their home deep in the Moroccan desert - a ksar they have acquired and renovated into a luxurious retreat. On the way, the Hennigers stop for lunch, and the bad-tempered David can't resist consuming most of a bottle of wine. Back on the road, darkness has descended, David is groggy, and the directions to the ksar are vague. Suddenly, two young men spring from the roadside, apparently attempting to interest passing drivers in the fossils they have for sale. Panicked, David swerves toward the two, leaving one dead on the road and the other running into the hills. At the ksar, the festivities have begun: Richard and Dally's international friends sit down to a lavish dinner prepared and served by a large staff of Moroccans. As the night progresses and the debauchery escalates, the Moroccans increasingly view the revelers as the godless "infidels" they are. When David and Jo show up late with the dead body of the young man in their car, word spreads among the locals that David has committed an unforgivable act. Thus the stage is set for a weekend during which David and Jo must come to terms with David's misdeed, Jo's longings, and their own deteriorating relationship, and the flamboyant Richard and Dally must attempt to keep their revelers entertained despite growing tension from their staff and the Moroccan Berber father who comes to claim his son's body. With spare, evocative prose, searing eroticism, and a gift for the unexpected, Osborne memorably portrays the privileged guests wrestling with their secrets amidst the remoteness and beauty of the desert landscape. He also gradually reveals the jolting back-story of the young man who was killed and leaves David's fate in the balance as the novel builds to a shattering conclusion.
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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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September 25, 2012
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