On Java Road by Lawrence Osborne - review by Jake Kerridge

Jake Kerridge

Hong Kong Confidential

On Java Road


Hogarth 240pp £16.99

Lawrence Osborne’s novels, usually narrated from the viewpoint of Englishmen abroad, chart dizzyingly the change in perspective that occurs when the expat or visitor, surveying the territory with the careless confidence of one who thinks he has the measure of the country, has the rug pulled from under him. If he survives the fall and has some sense knocked into him, he will realise that, although the experience has taught him a little more about his host country, the primary lesson is that the incomer who thinks he can penetrate very far beneath the surface of its mysteries is a fool.

Osborne’s ninth novel is set in Hong Kong during the anti-extradition bill protests of 2019–20. The narrator is indigent English journalist Adrian Gyle, an old Hong Kong hand too long in the tooth to sustain himself with illusions about the romance of his profession but unable to conceive

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