• The Glass Kingdom

  • A Novel
  • By: Lawrence Osborne
  • Narrated by: Sura Siu
  • Length: 9 hrs and 21 mins
  • 3.3 out of 5 stars (52 ratings)

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The Glass Kingdom

By: Lawrence Osborne
Narrated by: Sura Siu
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Publisher's Summary

A New York Times Notable Book

A New York Times Editors’ Choice

A tense, stunningly well-observed novel of a young American on the run, from Lawrence Osborne, “an heir to Graham Greene” (The New York Times Book Review).

“Bangkok is the star of this accomplished novel. Its denizens are aliens to themselves, glittering on the horizon of their own lives, moving - restless and rootless and afraid - though a cityscape that has more stories than they know.” (Hilary Mantel, Booker Prize-winning author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies)

Escaping New York for the anonymity of Bangkok, Sarah Mullins arrives in Thailand on the lam with nothing more than a suitcase of purloined money. Her plan is to lie low and map out her next move in a high-end apartment complex called the Kingdom, whose glass-fronted façade boasts views of the bustling city and glimpses into the vast honeycomb of lives within.  

It is not long before she meets the alluring Mali doing laps in the apartment pool, a fellow tenant determined to bring the quiet American out of her shell. An invitation to Mali’s weekly poker nights follows, and - fueled by shots of yadong, good food, and gossip - Sarah soon falls in with the Kingdom’s glamorous circle of expat women. But as political chaos erupts on the streets below and attempted uprisings wrack the city, tensions tighten within the gilded compound. 

When the violence outside begins to invade the Kingdom in a series of strange disappearances, the residents are thrown into suspicion: both of the world beyond their windows and of one another. And under the constant surveillance of the building’s watchful inhabitants, Sarah’s safe haven begins to feel like a snare. 

From a master of atmosphere and mood, The Glass Kingdom is a brilliantly unsettling story of civil and psychological unrest and an enthralling study of karma and human greed. 

©2020 Lawrence Osborne (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Exceptional descriptive skills fuel an overwhelming sense of menace: It is no mean feat to make the ending of a novel truly shocking.... The next day you will still be thinking of Sarah’s fate with horror.” (The New York Times Book Review)

"...riveting... There’s an ominous sense of foreboding from the first page, and the tension ratchets up to a terrifying pitch before the horrifying and brutal conclusion. A gripping read.” (Booklist starred review)

"...masterfully drawn, mesmerizing novel.... A seductive, darkly atmospheric thriller with a spine-tingling climax.” (Kirkus Reviews starred review)

What listeners say about The Glass Kingdom

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Of the few I’ve read, it’s Lawrence Osborne’s best

I know Bangkok. I know those characters. But now I know them much better. And I believe them. Osborne’s roaming voice is very compelling. The heavy existential foreboding is something akin to Andre Malraux, dark and hidden. When the new lost soul washes up on the shores of the lovely dreamscape where antiquity and the modern mingle and morph, I’m with it all the way. Especially like the end. It’s so masterfully insightful, seems quite magical.

4 people found this helpful

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Mediocre story + mediocre narrator

A book that starts fairly interestingly, but looses momentum quite quickly and subsequently fails to hold the listener's interest. The narrator seems quite inexperienced as well. I gave it two stars for "meh."

3 people found this helpful

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Osborne has a handle on internal struggles

I like reading novels no one else could have written and The Glass Kingdom by Lawrence Osborne is one such book. As with many of Osborne's books it is setting driven with characters mixed in that pair well with the locale. As for the plot The Glass Kingdom is an improvement over Beautiful Animals, Osborne's previous novel, particularly in the writing of the American woman, Sarah Jennings - very believable. Are there implausibilities? Sure. But never enough to ruin the story. In writing the characters Osborne contrasts the East vs the West with the East scoring most of the advantages. His distinctions between the Japanese salarymen in Bangkok vs the American expats are spot on. A brooding and moody tale with a slow-burning fuse - I went back and forth between the hardcover and the audio book. My plan was to finish up on paper but I so enjoyed the voice work of Sura Siu that I went with an aural ending. It would have been fine either way. Whether you love or hate Thailand there will be much to love about The Glass Kingdom and a bit to hate too. Like a good martini with a lot of bitters - how it goes down will depend on your taste. A Yin Yang story with emphasis on the Yings. Stylish to the very end.

1 person found this helpful

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Dont buy, narrator intolerable!

The narrator breaks the sentences up inappropriately into phrases pitched in a sing-song cadence that distracts from the meaning of the text, as if concentrating on pronunciation at the cost of overall meaning.

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A decent entry by Osborne

Enjoyed this, but Hunters in the Dark was the better effort by Osborne. An excellent rendering of Bangkok and its expats.

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Nothing Happens By Chance

The Glass Kingdom by Lawrence Osborne is an intruiging story in a beautiful and mysterious setting. The protagonist is a young literary assistant who uses her position of trust to abscond with a large amount of money. She hides in Bangkok, Thailand and soon falls in with a small group of young women who are each also shady in their own ways. The setting, culture, and political events push and pull the story and the characters. The story is fast moving and well written. The characters are complicated and simple at the same time. The narration performance by Sura Siu supports the story and brings it to life very well. This book exceeded my expectations. I would recommend this to readers who enjoy stories about crime, mysteries, exotic settings, culture clashes, and Karma.