Netherland

Netherland

by Joseph O'Neill

Gail Reid: In "Netherland", Hans, a Dutch equities analyst lives in Manhattan with Rachel, his British lawyer wife during the months following September 11th. Rachel suffers such an emotional impact that she leaves New York for London with their young son. Hans is left behind, friendless and living temporarily in a hotel. He reconnects with the game of cricket, last played as a youth, and comes to view the sport as the great equalizer. His team is made up of men from throughout the world and from every social strata. A team leader Chuck Ramkissoon,a Trinidadian with mobster connections,befriends him.

We learn early on in the novel that Hans rejoins Rachel in London within two years and Chuck ends up dead in the river, a result most likely attributable to the underworld. The book is really about how people behave in particular circumstances during extraordinary events such as 911 and the detachment from reality that they experience. The New York Times raved about this book; and President Obama called it "wonderful" during his vacation last year. I did not rave about it at all; and it is decidedly not "wonderful". Dense prose, heavy intellectualizing, and a lack of any discernible action made this a tough and unrewarding read. Sorry, President Obama.
Rating: **

Arlene Almas: Hans, originally from the Netherlands but living in England, and his wife Rachel move to New York when Hans is offered a good job opportunity. They are both professional and well off financially. The have a son, Jake, and everything seems to be fine until 9/11 - Rachel decides that she and Jake must move back to England in order to be safe. It's clear that there are problems in the marriage, because she insists than Hans not go with them.

During the time that Hans remains in New York, his boyhood love of the game of cricket is revived. He seeks out the various places in the metropolitan area where cricket is played, primarily by immigrants to the U.S. from India and many Caribbean islands (he is often the only white person on the field). When he meets a Trinidadian named Chuck Ramkissoon, an unexpected friendship develops - he learns a great deal about Chuck's entrepreneurial dreams, but also becomes aware of some less savory aspects of Chuck's life. The book follows the story of Hans' marriage and his education in the life of immigrants in New York.

I found that both aspects of the story held my interest - the novel pulled me along until the two strands reached their resolutions. I recommend this to anyone looking for a somewhat unusual story which still delves into the familiar themes of love, marriage, parenting, and friendship.
Rating: ****

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