Netherland – Joseph O’Neill


Chosen by Suzy

An immigrant Dutchman living in New York in the wake of the 9/11 attacks takes up cricket and befriends a man whose body ends up being pulled from a river.

❚ “In Netherland, we follow Hans van den Broek, a financial analyst and cricket enthusiast, across a period of social turmoil following the 9/11 terror attacks on New York City.

“At the same time, Hans’ wife Rachel moves away from him in order to gain space from him, taking their son, Jake, with her. The novel focuses on how Hans copes on his own in New York in the years without his wife, primarily by taking part in amateur cricket leagues and befriending a mysterious — and increasingly concerning — man named Chuck Ramkissoon. It is also the story of the death of Chuck, who, it is revealed early in the novel, was murdered not long after Hans left New York.

“Loss of identity and estrangement are explored in a tale of a lost immigrant who is searching for a place to belong. Hans is constantly unable to settle. He is torn between his past in Europe with his family, and the new life in America and this feeling of displacement is a central tension in the novel. Sport, and cricket in particular, becomes a way of coping with loss.”

Despair busies one, and my weekend was spoken for. I was going to lie down on the floor of my apartment in the draft of the air conditioner and spend two days and nights traveling a circuit of regret, self-pity, and jealousy.

❚ “All appears straightforward and simple on the surface in this book, but actually it has a dark and perplexing layer to it that had me engrossed. We are told up front that Chuck’s body is going to end up being pulled from the river, which rather than giving it all away, is great incentive to read on and discover how everything goes so horribly wrong as Hans struggles for meaning in his life.” – Rachel

❚ “I found this book to move quite slowly.  The main character Hans was somewhat morose especially in comparison to Chuck and as he was the narrator this contributed to making the story tedious. Not my favourite.” – Jo

Published 2009
Harper Prennial
340 pages

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