Alone and un-tethered, feeling lost in the country he had come to regard as home, Hans stumbles upon the vibrant New York subculture of cricket, where he revisits his lost childhood and, thanks to a friendship with a charismatic and charming Trinidadian named Chuck Ramkissoon, begins to reconnect with his life and his adopted country. Ramkissoon, a Gatsby-like figure who is part idealist and part operator, introduces Hans to an "other" New York populated by immigrants and strivers of every race and nationality. Hans is alternately seduced and instructed by Chuck's particular brand of naiveté and chutzpah - by his ability to a hold fast to a sense of American and human possibility in which Hans has come to lose faith.
Netherland gives us both a flawlessly drawn picture of a little-known New York and a story of much larger, and brilliantly achieved ambition: the grand strangeness and fading promise of 21st century America from an outsider's vantage point, and the complicated relationship between the American dream and the particular dreamers. Most immediately, though, it is the story of one man - of a marriage foundering and recuperating in its mystery and ordinariness, of the shallows and depths of male friendship, of mourning and memory.
Joseph O'Neill's prose, in its conscientiousness and beauty, involves us utterly in the struggle for meaning that governs any single life.
©2008 Joseph O'Neill; (P)2008 Recorded Books
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
One of the best post-9/11 and postcolonial books I've read. Easily in the same infield as Delillo's post-9/11 short novels ('Falling Man', 'Cosmopolis', 'Point Omega'). In someways it surpasses these shorter Delillo works and stands closer to 'Underworld'. Besides the obvious Baseball vs. Cricket, Underworld and Netherland are looking at the same point from the views of New Yorker in New York vs Immigrant in New York, and Big vs. Small. Also, at the same time 'Netherland' is a retelling of 'The Great Gatsby'. I only recognized this after reading James Wood's New Yorker review, but all it took was the briefest mention of Gatsby and the floodgates opened. Anyway, brilliant.
THis book came as somewhat of a surprise, I didn't think I would be in the mood, but it starts off so well and the reader is so good, I just couldn't put it down and was engaged before I could protest. THe reader's accents were perfect and the tone was so perfect for the character, I must say I was very impressed with both the reading and the very moving story told in such an associative way rather than chronologically--I liked that. I look forward to hearing the book again soon, I read it so fast the first time I want time to savor it more slowly again.
Essentially a novel for men (lots of sports and sports metaphors), this is a book about a guy whose wife dumps him and who ends up living alone in post-911 New York City. Cricket is his salvation, and through it he becomes involved with a fascinating West Indian subculture. It's a book about human migration, about love and work and sex and the loss of a charismatic (and enigmatic) friend. Wonderfully written and narrated.
Say something about yourself!
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.
Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside a dog it is too dark to read. ~Groucho Marx
This is amazing prose. If you love exact, incisive, inventive writing, read this book. Made me think of Ian McEwan but better. Desolate but so beautifully written. I felt privileged by the glimpse into a hidden world of NYC immigrants.One of the finest books I've read in the past year.
This is an intriguing and interesting book about New York after 9-11. It focuses on a wealthy European banker with few friends who spends most of his leisure time playing cricket with third world immigrants after his wife flees New York. It is lucid and well narrated (the Indian/Trinidad accents seem authentic.) Its is intriguing and a bit of a mystery. I enjoyed it.
Jefferson Mays is absolutely inappropriate as the narrator of this book. His arch, bored tone takes away from a very interesting book. I saw Mays perform, "I am my own wife," and he was brilliant in that play but simply awful at reading Netherland.
I heard O'Neill read a bit of his own book on Fresh Air and it was an entirely different experience. But this performance.....very, very disappointing.
I was very disapointed in this book. The characters all felt smart without any wisdom and with a profound lack of empathy. If the author was trying to make a comparison between America after 9/11 and who we see and treat the rest of the world, it didn't work for me. The narrator was very good and if it weren't for that I'd have abandoned the book.
The best part of Netherland was the character development of the protagonist. I disliked the rambling style. The story begins in the present, but is largely driven by flashbacks and digressions.
I can't say I was exactly disappointed. I read the book to review it, so I had no particular expectations. I simply wasn't impressed with it.
Mays does a nice job of working with this material. His reading is direct and clear.
NOT read another book by Joseph O'neill.
I am not fond of "slice of life" books, so my review is probably less than fair. However, I simply wasn't impressed with the overall approach. The whole concept of Cricket, the game as applied to "playing cricket" as keeping your dealings in life open and above board in life, seemed a little strained to me.
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