Magazine article The Spectator

'The Ballad of a Small Player', by Lawrence Osborne - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'The Ballad of a Small Player', by Lawrence Osborne - Review

Article excerpt

Credit: Simon Baker

The Ballad of a Small Player Lawrence Osborne

Hogarth, pp.257, £12.99, ISBN: 9781781900169

Lord Doyle is a shrivelled English gambler frittering away his money and destroying his liver in the casinos of Macau. Aptly, since he is in a place filled with mock-Venetian canals and poor reproduction paintings, he himself is a fake: the man is not a real lord, and the money is not his own. He is a disgraced solicitor of modest origin, who ran off with a client's savings after befriending her.

Lawrence Osborne's novel is a bleak and enjoyable account of someone who, perhaps through unacknowledged guilt, finds bitter solace in losing and in driving himself towards extinction. Narrated in an urbane, knowing, faintly old-fashioned tone, the story moves from one garish setting to the next, with the deliberately repetitive scenery building a plausibly awful picture of the gambler's life of soulless grind. …

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