Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

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Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Eileen Shaw
Reviewed by Eileen Shaw
Summary: A Dutchman adrift in New York finds friends among the immigrant cricket-loving community and makes some seriously worrying discoveries when his friend Chuck is found dead. A wonderful read: you'll never think of New York in quite the same way again.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 300 Date: January 2009
Publisher: HarperPerennial
ISBN: 978-0007275700

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The narrator is all-important in this delightful book. Hans is a Dutchman adrift in New York when his wife decides to return to her English parents with their small son, Jake. He is an analyst in oil and gas conglomerates and his job is just too lucrative to relinquish; and so he opts to stay, returning to England at fortnightly intervals to spend a weekend with his little son. Shortly after his wife, Rachel, leaves he happens upon a group of immigrants playing cricket, a bizarre apparition that prompts him to join them, and there he meets Chuck Ramkissoon, a West Indian naturalised American, who is a fabulist and some-time entrepreneur, who later turns out to have darker sidelines that Hans only gradually discovers.

If you, like me, don't care for, or even understand, the game of cricket, don't fear that you'll be embroiled in endless descriptions of the thwack of leather on willow, this novel is not about cricket in that way. Cricket is a metaphor, almost, for the strange city of New York and its ability to create the diaspora of almost everywhere else. What captivates is the voice of Hans describing his life, his love for his wife, Rachel and his child, and the gift of friendship with Chuck, who has endless stories to tell, as well as fantasies to dream about.

Wry, gentle, sensuous and sensitive, Hans battles to understand himself, his wife and the city of New York and we learn much about the history of the city and its underclass inhabitants in this stunningly intimate and moving narrative. This is an absorbing and captivating read, one of the most memorably pleasurable books I've come across this year.

Further Reading Suggestion: Described as 'short, taut and piercingly clever', The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, provides a different but equally insightful perspective on the American immigrant experience.

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Buy Netherland by Joseph O'Neill at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Netherland by Joseph O'Neill at

Booklists.jpg Netherland by Joseph O'Neill is in the Richard and Judy Shortlist 2009.


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