The Forgiven
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The Forgiven

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  511 ratings  ·  129 reviews
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 Lon...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 25th 2012 by Hogarth (first published 2012)
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Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary MantelIron Curtain  by Anne ApplebaumWhy Nations Fail by Daron AcemoğluThe Pinecone by Jenny UglowStrands by Jean Sprackland
The Economist - Books of the Year 2012
46th out of 55 books — 7 voters
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn WaughThe Caliph's House by Tahir ShahHideous Kinky by Esther FreudHope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila LalamiNaked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
Books Set in Morocco
45th out of 83 books — 36 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,560)
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Beautifully written, shattering prose that makes Western (in)sensibilities crumble in the harsh desert sun of northern Africa. I want to pen so much more about why this novel is superlatively fantabulous, but I'll unwittingly spoil things without Spoiler tags.

The only future worth entertaining is the one we can’t imagine at all.

Forgive me, please, and read this wondrous novel about how we all go about [un]Forgiven.
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
What drew me to this book was the setting. It takes place in an unglamorous part of Morocco that many tourists would never see. Lawrence Osbourne has lived the expat life in Morocco, and he seems to grasp the mindset of the Moroccan Berber people and how they view the ridiculous excesses of wealthy foreigners who come to their country. Osbourne also shows an understanding of the economic dilemma facing the poorest Moroccans who must rely on tourists for their livelihood. Many of them go to Franc...more
Lisa B.
My Thoughts

This was very good. Not fast paced, but a slow simmering suspense. I’m going to share one extra tidbit to make this even more enticing. The father of the young man that David struck and killed shows up at the ksar. He wants David, and ONLY David to come back to their village to attend his son’s burial and as such, atone for what he did.

Oh really? A bereaved Muslim father wants an unbeliever, an infidel, to come alone to their distant village. What happens to David? And in David’s abse...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this review, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Now that I'm finished with it, I find myself having a hard time deciding what exactly to think of critical darling and "professional nomad" Lawrence Osborne's latest novel, the engaging but also meandering The Forgiven. Because on the one hand, its Graham-Greene-meets-the-Tea-Party setting is going to be...more
Jan 11, 2014 Cheryl rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Cheryl by: Proustitute
”…one forgets that the point of life is death.”
The story seemingly describes a culture clash, between traditional Moroccan Muslims trying to scratch out a living and affluent Westerners who have too much of a living. But it could equally have been set in a vast country estate of the wealthy in 19th-century Britain, pitting the lords against the peasants.
Or in the crowded streets of New York….I just realized what this story has in common with The Bonfire of the Vanities: a car driven by a rich p...more
if you know osbonrne's writings The Accidental Connoisseur: An Irreverent Journey Through the Wine World you'll know, and expect, full-on sensuality and food/wine porn of the most yummy sort, and this novel brings you all that, plus too, evocation of place that is both "factual seeming" and seductive, even when it is 120 degrees in the shade and flies are biting. so, Morocco, 21st century, a 1%er's posh re-vamped (and air conditioned) hill top fort, fossil sellers out the ass, local boys as the...more
I have to say that this is possibly the best novel I have read all year. Highly recommended
Galen Weitkamp
My son once brought home a project he made in grade school. It was a bottle half filled with water dyed deeply blue and the other half filled with transparent baby oil. The surface between the oil and water was continuous and smooth like a mathematical surface. Gently rocked from side to side, viscous blue waves slowly rolled across an imaginary surf. Shaken, the interface became a frothy fractal of bubbles ranging from the visible down to the microscopic.

Having just read Lawrence Osborne’s The...more
The suburbs of Tangiers were ruined, but the gardens were still there. And so were the crippled lemon trees and olives, the dogged disillusion and empty factories, the smell of seething young men.

A sybaritic weekend in the Saharan desert of Morocco, at a fantastically renovated fortress compound. Richard and Dally have invited friends from around the globe and for Londoners, David and Jo, it seems the perfect antidote to a marriage that is fraying. That is, right up until the moment when, in the...more
Nathan Oates
I wanted to like this book more than I did. Everything seemed aligned for my enjoyment: a story about travel in Morocco, lush, elegant writing that explores the problematic consciousnesses, not just of the Americans and British expats, but of the local people who are trapped in poverty and frustration. But there was something that made the book slow and even laborious so that I never really wanted to return to it. I'm not exactly sure what that was (perhaps it was my own impatience), but I think...more
Nic Penrake
In a word, outstanding. Best novel I've read in a long time. The prose is utterly seductive. Within a few pages I was straight back in Morocco, which I only know from one visit, but there I was, seeing and smelling it all so vividly. I love the blend of impartiability and compassion, the despair and dogged hope, the quiet English irony of the travelled writer. Although he's English, he osborne has more in common for me with American writers like McInerney - very sensuous, never fidgety the way s...more
I chose to read this book based on the books synopsis on Goodreads. It sounded alluring. What I found this book to be was the Great Gatsby set in Morrocco. Full of superficial wealthy characters who spend there days worrying about what they will eat next and what parties they will go smoke weed at or get drunk at next. I also felt the author gave way too much detail on insigniciant parts of the story. I cant say that he doesn't pay attention to detail, it was overkill though. Political commentar...more
Evanston Public  Library
Barreling along a Morrocan road enroute to an extravagant weekend party thrown by rich friends, a somewhat boozy, bickering middle-aged British couple are involved in a fatal accident that won’t easily be resolved, no matter how sorry everyone is. The death of a local Muslim boy fuels cultural misunderstanding and mistrust. Atonement must be made. So richly atmospheric that you can almost taste the sand and smell the dust in an unforgiving desert. There are few sympathetic characters in this moo...more
Someone else said about this book "I wanted to like it more than I did." My sentiments exactly. I've been to Morocco, I've read other books about Morocco and am interested in the country, the people, the impact of foreigners - both historically and presently. But - though the story was dramatic, as was the action - it seemed overwritten, too much effort to make it intense. Why do dinosaurs have red eyes? Do they - in a description of scenery, events that have nothing to do with dinosaurs. Some o...more
While on the way to a party in the Moroccan desert, David and Jo Henniger have an accident. It is the middle of the night and two men approach David and Jo in their car. David caught off guard swerves and hits one of the men. The other man takes off running into the desert. David and Jo put the dead man's body in the trunk of their car and make their way to their destination. It is not long after they arrive that word spreads about what David and Jo did.

I was excited to pick up this book and st...more
The Moroccan desert is hot, dry, and very dusty. The Westerners are dissolute, unappealing, and mostly distrustful of one another. The weekend party of debauchery they attend is extremely lavish but ultimately barren, something to be endured rather than enjoyed. Throughout it all, the Berbers look on with disgust, while a father mourns the death of his son killed by car driven by an Englishman. Each aspect--the landscape, the sybaritic party populated with competing characters, the extremely dif...more
Everyone loved this book apparently, so who am I to disagree? I will admit it was an interesting read, and I didn't have to force myself to keep reading. Here's the story: A smug alcoholic doctor and his annoying skinny wife travel from England to Morocco to attend a lavish and decadent weekend-long party given by friends they don't really like. Driving in the dark, they hit a young man who had tried to stop their car (a la
"Bonfire of Vanities" and "The Great Gatsby"). Therein lies the conflict...more
This is novel which to my mind is "old school" in the way it is written. It is about an English doctor and his wife who are in north Africa driving to a weekend celebration at friends estate but on their way they strike and kill a young Muslim boy who is seemingly trying to sell them fossils by the side of the road. As they get to their friends home with people coming from all over to attend the weekend party the boy's father appears and wants some satisfaction for the death of his son. At this...more
Mike Joanne
I enjoyed the setting of the story, both in the Kasbah of Decadence and the more rural areas of Morocco. Learning about the types of fossils and the excavation was quite interesting. Just this April, we saw the roadside fossil stands in central Morocco and wondered about the authenticity of the fossils. We bought one for a friend, but may have to return to get our own someday.
I just didn't care for the characters, although that was probably the author's intent to keep us unbiased.
The novel certa...more
Doreen Gordon
A British couple with a tired and strained marriage travel to Morocco to attend a lavish and decadent weekend party on the estate of friends in the Moroccan desert. When David and Jo Henninger reach Tangiers, Morocco via ferry from Spain, they still have a long drive ahead through the desert to the estate, yet David, an alcoholic, over-imbibes and begins to display his unstable and impulsive temperament. Driving into the night, they have an accident when two young men step out of the shadows ont...more
This book seemed like a Moroccan Bonfire of the Vanities to me. There were no likeable characters, and it was scary to see the depiction of barely under-the-surface hatred of "infidels" by the local population as well as the callousness of most of the Westerners in the story. I flew through the book despite its darkness and found it something of a cautionary tale.
I liked reading the reviews more than I liked reading this book. The prose was lovely but I felt the story was tedious. I hated all the characters. I certainly don't like people more after finishing this read. Definitely lots to talk about for a book club but I can't imagine my group slogging thru this one. It gets a 5 on my 10 scale.
Takes you on an excursion into an off-ramp of life with a rather sad set of lost characters caught in a bonfire of the vanities sort of thing. The setting is exotic; but full of the "dust" of life that threatens to bury you while you are not looking.
I enjoyed this book, although there was not a single character I really liked in it. i know that sounds strange. The writing style Osborne used was almost classical; I loved his ways of describing the environment, the actions, the food. The way he often would write what a character thought, before writing what he or she actually said or did allowed me to have a better understanding of the complex ways everyone was deceiving one another (and themselves) throughout the events. The slow way in whic...more
Maybe closer to 4 stars.

An English couple accidentally kills a young Muslim fossil seller on their way to a lavish party in a remote area of Morocco. The lavish homestead they are visiting is both fascinating and off putting in its excess and debauchery. I most enjoyed the tensions between the "Godless infidels" (westerners) and the Muslims.

An examination of the assumptions Muslims and westerners make about each other, the ways in which they misunderstand each other, and how they can each feel...more
Imagine you're a drunken driver in a remote area of a foreign country and you hit and kill a local youth with your car. What do you think will happen to you? Should happen to you?
What a haunting novel - a situation that could happen to anyone with stark consequences. Very tense and beautifully written. Highly recommended.
I was really torn here between three and four stars. The writing is so lovely and the scene is set so well with beautiful descriptions that it was almost luxurious to read. But I found the people inhabiting the book caricatures. The extreme "us vs them" (infidel vs believer) attitude of every last local was both scary and exhausting. But having lived in the middle east, I've seen the middle road and come out on the side of exhausting. And the truly gross behavior of the other characters left me...more
Ben Lainhart
A wonderfully told and complex story that offers no easy answers. A shocking ending even though it was expected.
The best book I have read this year, I highly recommend it.
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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...more
More about Lawrence Osborne...
The Accidental Connoisseur: An Irreverent Journey Through the Wine World Bangkok Days The Wet and the Dry: Ventures into Worlds Where Alcohol Is Embraced...or Forbidden The Ballad of a Small Player The Naked Tourist: In Search of Adventure and Beauty in the Age of the Airport Mall

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