I was somewhat shocked to read other reviews that derided this book as boring and pointless. I would imagine that those readers/reviewers lean toward more popular fiction as a general rule.
"Netherland" is a beautifully written story about the ordinary things we must all deal with--how to find meaning in a relationship that has grown stale, how to find meaning in a post 9/11 world, how to find meaning in general, when one's dreams seem faded in the distant past.
Brought to life by the simple, entrancing narration of Jefferson Mays, "Netherland" draws us into the life of Hans, transplanted to New York from Holland via London. The game of cricket, about which I know zip, binds many of the characters together. And even though I know nothing of cricket, I was captivated by Hans's reflections of his cricket greatness as a youth. Who among us does not think back on our younger sporting selves with nostalgia?
O'Neill is deft with a pen: whether describing a cricket match or the hollowness of Manhatten after 9/11, he puts on a novel spin on every phrase. His scene in the New York City DMV, with its ludicrous hoops one must jump through had me smiling, maybe even laughing. Such a great commentary on the world today.
I loved this quiet book, loved the themes, loved the narration, and was captured by the poetry of O'Neill's prose. If you like Ian McEwan, Ann Patchett, Michael Chabon, Colm Toibin, John Cheever, or John Updike, you will probably also love this book.
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