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Netherland [Hardcover]

Joseph O'Neill
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 May 2008

In early 2006, Chuck Ramkissoon is found dead at the bottom of a New York canal.

In London, a Dutch banker named Hans van den Broek hears the news, and remembers his unlikely friendship with Chuck and the off-kilter New York in which it flourished: the New York of 9/11, the powercut and the Iraq war. Those years were difficult for Hans - his English wife Rachel left with their son after the attack, as if that event revealed the cracks and silences in their marriage, and he spent two strange years in the Chelsea Hotel, passing stranger evenings with the eccentric residents.

Lost in a country he'd regarded as his new home, Hans sought comfort in a most alien place - the thriving but almost invisible world of New York cricket, in which immigrants from Asia and the West Indies play a beautiful, mystifying game on the city's most marginal parks. It was during these games that Hans befriended Chuck Ramkissoon, who dreamed of establishing the city's first proper cricket field. Over the course of a summer, Hans grew to share Chuck's dream and Chuck's sense of American possibility - until he began to glimpse the darker meaning of his new friend's activities and ambitions…

‘Netherland’ is a novel of belonging and not belonging, and the uneasy state in between. It is a novel of a marriage foundering and recuperating, and of the shallows and depths of male friendship. With it, Joseph O'Neill has taken the anxieties and uncertainties of our new century and fashioned a work of extraordinary beauty and brilliance.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; First Edition edition (5 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007269064
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007269068
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 368,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joseph O'Neill is an Irish barrister living in New York. He is the author of three previous novels, 'Netherland' (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2008), 'This Is the Life' and 'The Breezes', as well as a memoir, 'Blood-Dark Track'.

Product Description

Review

‘O'Neill writes about cricket not with Beckettian economy, but with an insider's knowledge and a metaphorical sweep that recalls John Updike's paeans to basketball that run like an elegy for lost youth, and lost American innocence, though his epic series of Rabbit novels…a novel full of vividly descriptive passages that posses a heightened, almost hallucinatory, brilliance…Perhaps what O'Neill has written here is indeed a novel that meditates on the Great American Dream. “Netherland” certainly has the scope and sweep of such an epic undertaking…In a work that constantly echoes but never imitates, novels by Updike, Ford and yes, Fitzgerald, Joseph O'Neill has created in Hans van den Broek an unlikely hero for our uncertain times. A great American novel, then, but one with an ordinary European Everyman at its centre.’ Observer

'A great American novel, but one with an ordinary European Everyman at its centre.' Sean O'Hagan, Observer

'An exquisitely written novel, a large fictional achievement, and one of the most remarkable post-colonial books I have ever read' James Wood, New Yorker

‘An extraordinary novel … O'Neill is a writer of dizzying elegance.' Daniel Swift, Financial Times

'Joseph O'Neill's brilliant, haunting new novel.' Telegraph

'Joseph O'Neill's beautiful new novel.' Pankaj Mishra, Guardian

'A stunning new novel' Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

'A remarkable new novel' Declan Hughes, Irish Times

'Touched by greatness' Ed Caesar, Sunday Times

'It is hard to know which is stranger - that a great American novel has been written about cricket or that a great cricket novel should be set in America. But both are true. Netherland, a state-of-the-nation exploration of contemporary America, is ambitious, intelligent and deeply perceptive…whether a huge six or a home run - whatever the metaphor of your choice Netherland - comes right out of the middle of the bat.' Ed Smith, The Times

‘A captivating new novel.’ Alan Hollinghurst, New York Review of Books

'Somewhere between the towns of Saul Bellow and Ian
McEwan, O'Neill has pitched his miraculous tent … The reader, almost imperceptibly, becomes little by little scorched by the novel's brilliance, irradiated by it, benignly." Sebastian Barry

'New York is not what most people imagine it to be. Just as marriage, family, friendship and manhood are not. Netherland is suspensful, artful, psychologically pitch-perfect, and a wonderful read. But more than any of that, it's revelatory. Joseph O'Neill has managed to paint the most famous city in the world, and the most familiar concept in the world (love) in an entirely new way.' Jonathan Safran Foer

‘O'Neill writes a prose of Banvillean grace and beauty, shimmering with truthfulness, as poised as it unsettling. As well, this is a story that is hard to put down, for its characters are so real and their preoccupations so urgently of the now, that the book has the vividness of breaking news. He is a master of the long sentence, of the half-missed moment, of the strange archeology of the troubled marriage. Many have tried to write a great American novel. Joseph O'Neill has succeeded.’ Joseph O’Connor

‘An outstanding new novel’ Adam Kushner, Newsweek

'Great cricket novels can be counted on one hand…Netherland looks as if it may top the lot!' Observer Sports

‘So expertly woven that it is impossible for a patient reader not to admire what it essentially is - a beautifully written exploration of memory and self.’ Beth Jones, Sunday Telegraph

‘A near-perfect work: an instant classic of post-9/11 literature about its urbane Dutch-born hero's unlikely twin passions, New York and cricket.’ Paul Levy, Wall Street Journal

Mail on Sunday, Books of the Year

Guardian Books of the Decade, 2008

From the Publisher

'New York is not what most people imagine it to be. Just as marriage, family, friendship and manhood are not. Netherland is suspensful, artful, psychologically pitch-perfect, and a wonderful read. But more than any of that, it's revelatory. Joseph O'Neill has managed to paint the most famous city in the world, and the most familiar concept in the world (love) in an entirely new way.' Jonathan Safran Foer

`O'Neill writes a prose of Banvillean grace and beauty, shimmering with truthfulness, as poised as it unsettling. As well, this is a story that is hard to put down, for its characters are so real and their preoccupations so urgently of the now, that the book has the vividness of breaking news. He is a master of the long sentence, of the half-missed moment, of the strange archeology of the troubled marriage. Many have tried to write a great American novel. Joseph O'Neill has succeeded.' Joseph O'Connor

'Somewhere between the towns of Saul Bellow and Ian McEwan, O'Neill has pitched his miraculous tent ... The reader, almost imperceptibly, becomes little by little scorched by the novel's brilliance, irradiated by it, benignly." Sebastian Barry


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
The narrator is all-important in this wonderful book. He's a Dutchman adrift in New York when his wife decides to return to her English parents with their small son, Jake. Hans 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, such a bizarre apparition that it 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 mechanism to explore the city of New York with 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 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.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A demanding but worthwhile read 6 Jan 2009
By J. H. Bretts VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
According to the dust jacket the critics loved it. I can see why but found it very demanding. It is not a novel in which plot plays a big part. In fact, it is more an extended meditation on experience - on love,class, fatherhood, friendship,and belonging. But the prose is breathtaking at times, and there are some sections of description and reflection which I won't forget in a hurry and which make it worthwhile in the end.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding 5 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Really can't think of a fault. An intriguing plot, with thoughts and ideas slipping backwards and forwards over time and place. There are all manner of components - evocations of childhood, the unpicking of relationships, visually memorable scenes and images, and humour slipped in between sorrow and angst, to name but a few. I had to admit feeling relieved to read later that it took the author 7 years to write this - it tells in the glittering prose.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a truly great novel! 11 Jan 2009
Format:Paperback
Netherland seems to have drawn reviews from opposite ends of the spectrum, people either love or hate it. I felt it was the best novel (along with the Road by Cormac McCArthy) I have read in some time.
It is true that there is no linear story here, also true that the characters dont try in anyway to be likelable or at times even interesting. In my mind Netherland takes on the biggest themes facing people today and how could these themes be examined if not through people that had real traits and character. After all how many real people are, linear, always interesting or even likeable?
The theme of finding a place in the World is explored beautifully. Hans throughout his life has never really felt like he belonged and seems to attach himself to people that give him a sense of place, this is the mechanism for introducing most of the supporting characters in the novel. This even seems to apply to his wife, who for mind, is not the kind of partner most people would cross continents for. But Hans has an "idea" of belonging and that includes his wife and son.
His journey to this state of fitting in is the backbone of the novel, but the eventual outcome makes little difference it is Hans journey that engages. I related to the character and the themes (despite being nothing like him)and I think anyone who constantly engages with their place in the World will see pieces of themselves in Hans and his comrades.
The prose is wordy and sometimes too much so, but there are moments and sentences in this novel that will make you stop and read them again for their insight and beauty. I find myself picking it up, randomly openinig a page and reading it.
This is literature. Joesph O'Neill is a writer. He doesnt really care what the reader thinks and thats a good thing for because of his density of thought and breath of theme he has created a truly great book.
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142 of 164 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wish I'd bought something different 18 July 2008
By emma who reads a lot TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
I feel almost apologetic about the fact that I never quite got "Netherland" - especially in the light of the other glowing reviews posted here. I bought it on the strength of the newspaper reviews, because it sounded like the kind of literary novel I really enjoy (Updike, Bellow etc).

But I found it really confusing. The fact that a novel about cricket has an ice-skater on the cover is perhaps a symbol of how oddly disjointed the events of the book are - and like many others writing here, I expected a bit of a mystery plot as the novel begins with a dead body - but no such luck.

I never really came to like or care about the reserved (and verging on pathetic, I sometimes wanted to scream) narrator Hans. I disliked his wife. I know it's lame and schoolgirly to talk about whether you "liked' characters but I just didn't really care what happened. And where other readers clearly found the elliptic writing and long sentences profoundly evocative, I just got muddled. The one saving grace was the subtlety of the falling-apart marriage and its strange journey back to wholeness: all in all I felt the book had the potential to be really good, but in the end I just found it slightly irritating.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Cricket and Life
An acutely observed novel on life in the fast lane and immigrant communities in New York, which is held together by a love of cricket. Read more
Published 25 days ago by Mr. A. Q. Kopp
3.0 out of 5 stars Well.written, slightly verbose but very atmospheric
The best thing about this book is not the prose, though, which is frequently verbose and rather pretentious, but the premise: that of a Dutch expatriate attempting to play a decent... Read more
Published 2 months ago by James Wood
3.0 out of 5 stars A good writer does not make for a good novelist
I stuck with reading this because the writing style on the whole was interesting and well executed. I wanted it to at least by page 247 to say something on love, work, friendship... Read more
Published 3 months ago by "Belgo Geordie"
4.0 out of 5 stars Mildly Interesting Novel
On the front cover of this book is a quote from Barack Obama about "Netherland" ,saying that it is "A Brilliant Book". That persuaded me to buy this book. Read more
Published 3 months ago by L. Davidson
3.0 out of 5 stars 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... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Cloggie Downunder
2.0 out of 5 stars not interesting for me
for me this book was not interesting and sometimes even boring. I did not care for the main character and could not live into the story. Read more
Published 9 months ago by laros76
5.0 out of 5 stars an interesting and challenging read for a cricket fan with an interest...
I liked cricket being the vehicle and framework or his novel with the view from a Dutch perspective adding to its appeal. Read more
Published 10 months ago by David Goodall
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay read
A little uninvolving. Alot of build-up and then it ended with nothing much having happened. Description of the residents of the hotel was a little cliched.
Published 11 months ago by Nellie Russell
5.0 out of 5 stars For the love of cricket
Entertaining story about a man in New York City seeking friendship and distraction after his wofe leaves him in a rag tag group of cricket players. Read more
Published 12 months ago by La Gringa
2.0 out of 5 stars Cricket and marriage counselling
Joseph O'Neill struck gold when Barack Obama got sick of briefing papers, and choose O'Neill's fourth book for some light reading. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Mostly Harmless
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