In a New York City made phantasmagorical by the events of 9/11, Hans--a banker originally from the Netherlands--finds himself marooned among the strange occupants of the Chelsea Hotel after his English wife and son return to London. Alone and untethered, 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 Chucks particular brand of naivete and chutzpah--by his ability to 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 outsiders 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 ONeills prose, in its conscientiousness and beauty, involves us utterly in the struggle for meaning that governs any single life.
Netherland is best when it introduces its kaleidoscopic and near-infinite
cast of background characters—the colorful denizens of the Chelsea Hotel, the
international team of cricketers on Staten Island, the marginal figures with
whom Chuck socializes and does shady business. But none of these characters
stick around for long, as Hans keeps taking up the story in his plodding and
uninflected voice, and even Chuck's story gets buried in the far less engaging
story of Hans' reunion with Rachel. I rooted hard for this book, but in the end
it let me down. (Reviewed by Amy Reading).
Chicago Tribune - Art Winslow
O'Neill has a pleasantly subtle touch that allows him to make those portions of the novel affecting without hint of gratuitous sentimentality.
International Herald Tribune - Dwight Garner
It's too urbane, too small-boned, too savvy to carry much Dreiserian sweep and swagger. But [it is] the wittiest, angriest, most exacting and most desolate work of fiction we've yet had about life in New York and London after the World Trade Center fell. ... I devoured it in three thirsty gulps, gulps that satisfied a craving I didn't know I had.
The New Yorker - James Wood
The simplicity of the writing here and the choosing of a frozen racial emblem echo V. S. Naipaul, that Trinidadian Indian, and, if Netherland pays homage to The Great Gatsby, it is also in some kind of knowing relationship with A House for Mr. Biswas. These are large interlocutors, but Netherland has an ideological intricacy, a deep human wisdom, and prose grand enough to dare the comparison.
The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
Joseph O'Neill's stunning new novel, Netherland, provides a resonant meditation on the American Dream…[he] does a magical job of conjuring up the many New Yorks Hans gets to know.
This love story about a friendship, a place and a marriage is not easy to read, but it's even harder to stop thinking about.
Starred Review. O'Neill (This Is the Life ) offers an outsider's view of New York bursting with wisdom, authenticity and a sobering jolt of realism.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Cloggie Downunder an OK read, but nothing earth-shattering. Netherland is the third novel by Irish-born author, Joseph O’Neill. Set mainly in post 9/11 New York, it is narrated by Hans van den Broek, a Dutch-born equities analyst living the Chelsea Hotel and working in for a large bank. When his English... Read More
It would seem that Joseph O'Neill's secret mission in writing Netherland is to convert
Americans into cricket fans. Hans, his narrator, implicitly assumes that his
readers are not familiar with the game, and long passages are given over to
(rather aggrievedly) pointing to its illustrious history and explaining its
subtleties. Herewith, for those who know baseball but not cricket, a few
additional pointers on a game that Bill Bryson calls "a sport that is enjoyed by
millions, some of them awake and facing the right way."
Like baseball, someone throws a ball and another person bats at it, but the
similarities, for the most part, end there. Cricket is played on a circular
field and the play extends in all directions. The batter is out when the ball
hits one of three poles behind him known as stumps, so batting is as much defensive as
offensive. Bowling more closely resembles tennis or golf because the bowler
bounces the ball off the pitch on its way to the batter, and can use the pitch
and its properties, as well as his...
Research shows that 90% of Americans value public libraries(Dec 11 2013) According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, about 90% of Americans aged 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an...