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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.
“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.” – Publishers Weekly (starred)
“Osborne comes up with an ending that’s at the same time ironic, surprising and completely fitting. A gripping read with moral ambiguity galore.”
– Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"The Forgiven shines darkly with a rich and mordant fatalism. Osborne's characters emerge like people in a dream – diamond-sharp but fascinatingly askew. His prose is gorgeous and precise; the story slices keenly through the exotic haze of its setting. It's an absolutely brilliant novel – the ending is a shock in the best way." – Kate Christensen, author of The Epicure's Lament and The Astral
“The prose of The Forgiven has a very particular, knowing luminosity, much like the tarnished world it describes. A beautiful, compelling book to savor line by line.”
– Nikita Lalwani, author of Gifted