Friday, February 24, 2017

G784 Book Review of Hunters in the dark by Lawrence Osborne

Name of Book: Hunters in the Dark

Author: Lawrence Osborne

ISBN: 978-0-553-44736-1

Publisher: Hogarth

Type of book: Cambodia, white male/Asian female relationships, Khmer, tutoring, identity, karma, exploring the jungles, ghosts, money, thievery, travel, aimlessness

Year it was published: 2015


From the novelist the New York Times compares to Paul Bowles, Evelyn Waugh and Ian McEwan, an evocative new work of literary suspense

Adrift in Cambodia and eager to side-step a life of quiet desperation as a small-town teacher, 28-year-old Englishman Robert Grieve decides to go missing. As he crosses the border from Thailand, he tests the threshold of a new future.

And on that first night, a small windfall precipitates a chain of events-- involving a bag of jinxed money, a suave American, a trunk full of heroin, a hustler taxi driver, and a rich doctor s daughter-- that changes Robert s life forever.

Hunters in the Dark is a sophisticated game of cat and mouse redolent of the nightmares of Patricia Highsmith, where identities are blurred, greed trumps kindness, and karma is ruthless. Filled with Hitchcockian twists and turns, suffused with the steamy heat and pervasive superstition of the Cambodian jungle, and unafraid to confront difficult questions about the machinations of fate, this is a masterful novel that confirms Lawrence Osborne s reputation as one of our finest contemporary writers.

NPR "Best Books of 2016" - Staff Picks, Realistic Fiction, Seriously Great Writing, and Tales from Around the World selection"


I'm not sure where to start with the main characters which include Robert Grieve, a young twenty-something male that's filled with wanderlust who seems to want something but isn't sure what, thus he travels to Cambodia because its different and somewhere he hasn't been before. He meets up with an American, Simon Beauchamp who strikes me as sort of an older version of Robert who also has a Khmer girlfriend/wife who is hooked on drugs. Robert meets up with a Khmer woman by the name of Sophal who is a world traveler and is bitter and jaded. There is also Sophal's parents, namely her father who asks Robert to be an English teacher for his daughter when his daughter speaks perfect English and who is elegant and sophisticated.


I honestly am stuck on what the theme should have been. Way too meandering for my tastes.


The story is in third person narrative from many characters' points of view, and there was next to nothing when it came to plot, but it went something like this: a former teacher goes to Cambodia just because he wants to escape and literally do nothing. He wins money, gets robbed by an American, gets told lots of times that he is something Khmer women would pursue, pretends to be an American, meets a Khmer woman and decides to pursue relationship with her. There are other stuff going on, but I couldn't make heads or tails of how they fit in with the story.

Author Information:

Lawrence Osborne is a British novelist currently residing in New York City.

Osborne was educated at Cambridge and Harvard, and has since led a nomadic life, residing for years in France, Italy, Morocco, the United States, Mexico, Thailand and Istanbul.

He is the author of the novel Ania Malina, a book about Paris, Paris Dreambook, the essay collection The Poisoned Embrace, a controversial book about autism called American Normal, and three subsequent travel books published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux between 2004 and 2009: a book about wine, The Accidental Connoisseur, The Naked Tourist, and an account of expatriate life in Bangkok called Bangkok Days. His short stories have appeared in many American magazines. His story Volcano originally published in Tin House was selected for inclusion in Best American Short Stories 2012. His novel The Forgiven was published in 2012 to widespread acclaim. It was selected by The Economist as one of the Best Books of the Year for 2012.

He has been published widely as a journalist in the United States, most notably in the New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Gourmet, Salon, Playboy, and The Conde Naste Traveler. He was also been an occasional op ed columnist at and is a frequent contributor to Newsweek International, The Daily Beast and The Wall Street Journal Magazine.His recent feature for Playboy, Getting a Drink in Islamabad won a 2011 Thomas Lowell Award for Travel Journalism.


I like books that meander, that show off a place or time I haven't been in before, but this is not the book that does it well. The descriptions of the place and of the atmosphere added extremely little to the characters and their growth as people. In fact, I have no idea what the story should have been about because it seems that the main character simply exists and that's it. He does not possess conflict that could make it a human story but he simply lives and does nothing. I've read classics previously and believe it or not enjoyed a lot of pre-1800s classics that are about living, but the classics were infused with interest and drama, perhaps the authors had a perfect balance for me of conflict and description of the place while this is one is nothing but description, and also, it's annoying that Asian women in this book throw themselves at white men.

This is for LibraryThing

1 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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