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Cricket and marriage counselling,
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This review is from: Netherland (Paperback)
Joseph O'Neill struck gold when Barack Obama got sick of briefing papers, and choose O'Neill's fourth book for some light reading. Five years after its publication, does it stand the test of time?
Netherland seemed to me to be a modern day retelling of The Great Gatsby, in which Chuck Ramkissoon, a mysterious and charismatic protagonist, wanders in and out of the life of lonely narrator Hans van den Broek, extolling the virtues of capitalism, America, and cricket. Like The Great Gatsby, this is a New York story. Hans, an equity analyst with a curious amount of spare time, is lost in a fragmenting marriage and a new city. He seeks comfort in Chuck's friendship, but Chuck's story is a more complicated and darker than it first seems.
Netherland is not a bad book, but it didn't really excite me as much as I hoped it might. Like Ernest Hemingway, O'Neill focuses on the incidental events of life, but unlike Hemingway, this seems to mask a lack of substance in characters and relationships. There are also some awkward sentences which I think Hemingway would blush at. Consider `The visiting team suddenly appeared, hanging around in the ominous aura that always surrounds opponents before a match,' or `it occurred to me one day that spring had arrived.'
Netherland is a series of good anecdotes, but is it a novel? It was longlisted for the Booker prize, but didn't make the shortlist. I think that was about right.