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The Ballad of a Small Player

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The Ballad of a Small Player Cover

ISBN13: 9780804137973
ISBN10: 0804137978
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Review:

"The latest from author and journalist Osborne (The Forgiven) is a searing portrait of addiction and despair set in the glittering world of Macau's casinos. 'Lord Doyle,' as he's known to the other gamblers, is an English lawyer who has embezzled from a client and fled to Asia. Doyle spends his days and nights playing baccarat, which he calls 'a game of ecstasy and doom.' At the tables he drinks fine wine, handles his cards wearing kid gloves, and slowly but surely loses. Doyle's descriptions of the tables, the players, and the game's siren allure are by turns touching, acid, and depressing. A fellow gamer has eyes that reveal 'worlds of private pain.' A particularly garish casino inspires Doyle to muse, 'There is something in kitsch that reminds you there is more to being alive than being alive.' But Doyle's jaundiced eye barely masks his monstrous compulsion; indeed, the novel's energetic portrait of the highs and lows of a gambler's fortunes are as good as anything in the literature of addiction. Just when it seems Doyle's luck may have at last run out, he's rescued by Dao-Ming, a beautiful prostitute, whose genuine concern for him seems to rouse Doyle from his dissipation and downward spiral. But the novel subverts an easy storybook ending and reveals something much bleaker. Osborne's intriguing Chinese milieu and exquisite prose mark this work as a standout. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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SAH, May 17, 2014 (view all comments by SAH)
The Ballad of a Small Player
by Lawrence Osborne
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 3rd 2014 by Hogarth

In Lawrence Osborne’s Ballad of a Small Player we meet “Lord Doyle” a British expat lawyer living in the shadowy sub culture of Macua’s gambling dens. A man of dubious character, he doesn’t dwell on his past or how he embezzled his money from a trusting elderly widow, rather he indulges his penchant for punto banco, a version of baccarat which relies solely on luck which Doyle has doesn’t seem to have much of. Doyle himself is a bit of a ghost of a man, a lonely hard drinker with nothing to lose, he meanders his way from casino to casino, ultimately not caring whether he ends up in the black or the red. Externally affected and pretentious, he plays the dissolute British Lord stereotype to the hilt; the nonchalance of a man without a care, who squanders money as though he has a river of it running behind his home who gambles it all with a shrug and elf aggrandizing statements like “Everyone knows you are not a real player,” he observes, “until you secretly prefer losing.” While he is internally tormented by demons of his own making
Things change, however, the day he meets an ethereal young Chinese woman, Dao-Min and inexplicably begins to play hand after hand of perfect Nines- lucky Nines- so improbable the locals begin to whisper of superstition and ghosts and our story becomes layered with complexities as Doyle’s frenzied rise to even further riches conflicts with his internal battle and self-destructiveness. In the end we are left wondering what kind of story this is. Osborne’s gloriously succinct and elegant prose evoked a timeless atmosphere allowing me to envision the 40s of Bogey and Bacall alongside the Bond of Casino Royale days. Beautifully told, Osborne manages to weave a swirling story of multiple layers about love, addiction, truth vs façade with undercurrents of the supernatural. I read this book twice and on the second read was struck even more with the imagery Osborne’ words evoke and the smoky, dark noir atmosphere he creates. A truly a riveting and wonderful read.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780804137973
Author:
Osborne, Lawrence
Publisher:
Hogarth
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Fiction
Publication Date:
20140631
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
8.58 x 5.96 x 1.03 in 0.96 lb

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Ballad of a Small Player New Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$25.00 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Hogarth - English 9780804137973 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "The latest from author and journalist Osborne (The Forgiven) is a searing portrait of addiction and despair set in the glittering world of Macau's casinos. 'Lord Doyle,' as he's known to the other gamblers, is an English lawyer who has embezzled from a client and fled to Asia. Doyle spends his days and nights playing baccarat, which he calls 'a game of ecstasy and doom.' At the tables he drinks fine wine, handles his cards wearing kid gloves, and slowly but surely loses. Doyle's descriptions of the tables, the players, and the game's siren allure are by turns touching, acid, and depressing. A fellow gamer has eyes that reveal 'worlds of private pain.' A particularly garish casino inspires Doyle to muse, 'There is something in kitsch that reminds you there is more to being alive than being alive.' But Doyle's jaundiced eye barely masks his monstrous compulsion; indeed, the novel's energetic portrait of the highs and lows of a gambler's fortunes are as good as anything in the literature of addiction. Just when it seems Doyle's luck may have at last run out, he's rescued by Dao-Ming, a beautiful prostitute, whose genuine concern for him seems to rouse Doyle from his dissipation and downward spiral. But the novel subverts an easy storybook ending and reveals something much bleaker. Osborne's intriguing Chinese milieu and exquisite prose mark this work as a standout. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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