‘The Glass Kingdom’ by Lawrence Osborne – Bangkok is a Place Where Nearly Everyone is on the Take


‘The Glass Kingdom’ by Lawrence Osborne (2020) – 292 pages

As I have mentioned before, Lawrence Osborne is excellent at capturing the flavor of the people’s lives in the locales where he situates his novels. His stories are always well-observed. The biggest problem with ‘The Glass Kingdom’ is that it takes place in Bangkok, Thailand, and the flavor of the lives of the people who live there and who travel there is quite wretched.

Booming and exotic with a large number of visitors from other countries Bangkok, Thailand is a great place for a young woman who has just embezzled $200,000 to get lost in. Or so it seems to Sarah (a made-up name) who is from the United States. Sarah decides to hide out in Bangkok, in a luxurious residential complex called the Glass Kingdom, four connected 21 story towers. Built in the Nineties, by now the Glass Kingdom has lost some of its luster and has been surpassed by several even more luxurious residential complexes. This is exactly the kind of place Sarah wanted, a somewhat nondescript place she can lose herself in.

You can disappear in Bangkok pretty easily because it’s a big city. And it’s so free and loose.”

Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and has a population of over 8 million people. It has a large tourism industry based on restaurants, bars, and sex clubs. Both Chinese and Japanese entrepreneurs invest huge amounts of money in Thailand.

At the Glass Kingdom, Sarah meets a small group of young women who get together to play cards occasionally. Mali is herself from Thailand, Ximena is from Chile, and Natalie is from England. Bangkok is a cosmopolitan place, and nearly everyone there is on the take.

There is also a Thai maid, Goi, who plays a significant role in the story. The Thais are justly suspicious of all the white people who visit their country. The white people are referred to by the derogatory term “farangs”. Be prepared for some quite gruesome things happening.

Absolutely none of the characters in ‘The Glass Kingdom’ is likable or honest. They each seem to have their own scam going.

Sometimes a person’s unconscious falsity was more interesting than their conscious virtues.”

Thailand is wealthy today, thanks to Chinese and Japanese business owners. Perhaps the most terrifying aspect about Thailand is that it is a military dictatorship. Whenever there is any coup or disruption that might affect the tourist industry, the government uses military force to clamp down.

Everyone is brave until a soldier prepares to blow your head off.”

Osborne captures all the colorful details of Bangkok, its flowers, its lizards, its overwhelming heat. The problem is that every person in ‘The Glass Kingdom’ and perhaps all of Bangkok is compromised, and none of them seemed worthy of empathy.


Grade:    B



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