Thursday, October 22, 2009

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

Monday, November 23, 1 p.m.
Discussion leader: Ellen Getreu

Reserve your copy of Netherland on ALISweb


Booklist Review:

In this novel set in post-9/11 New York City, Dutch banker Hans has been abandoned by his wife and son, who have decamped to London. Defeated by his seemingly failed marriage, Hans takes up residence at the Chelsea Hotel and entertains his childhood love of cricket by joining a league made up of West Indian New Yorkers. Here he meets Chuck, a charismatic Trinidadian entrepreneur who introduces him to the outer reaches of New York's boroughs and marginal cultures, while creating a friendship with Hans that is both perplexing and satisfying. O’Neill’s poignant and tragic vision of New York is paired beautifully with the protagonist's reflection on his past failures and moments of happiness. Through the author's outsider vision of the city, New York's particular blend of cultural oddities and multifarious inhabitants are brought to the surface, revealing something touching and distinct about contemporary life. Netherland is a powerful merger of seen and unseen struggles, the unraveling of an American dream, and one man's rebirth through it all. -- Paulson, Heather (Reviewed 04-15-2008) (Booklist, vol 104, number 16, p26)

Publishers Weekly Review: /* Starred Review */

Hans van den Broek, the Dutch-born narrator of O’Neill dense, intelligent novel, observes of his friend, Chuck Ramkissoon, a self-mythologizing entrepreneur-gangster, that "he never quite believed that people would sooner not have their understanding of the world blown up, even by Chuck Ramkissoon."— The image of one's understanding of the world being blown up is poignant--this is Hans's fate after 9/11. He and wife Rachel abandon their downtown loft, and, soon, Rachel leaves him behind at their temporary residence, the Chelsea Hotel, taking their son, Jake, back to London. Hans, an equities analyst, is at loose ends without Rachel, and in the two years he remains Rachel-less in New York City, he gets swept up by Chuck, a Trinidadian expatriate Hans meets at a cricket match. Chuck's dream is to build a cricket stadium in Brooklyn; in the meantime, he operates as a factotum for a Russian gangster. The unlikely (and doomed from the novel's outset) friendship rises and falls in tandem with Hans's marriage, which falls and then, gradually, rises again. O’Neill (This Is the Life) offers an outsider's view of New York bursting with wisdom, authenticity and a sobering jolt of realism. (May) --Staff (Reviewed March 3, 2008) (Publishers Weekly, vol 255, issue 9, p28)

Library Journal Review:

Hans van den Broek, the main character in this ruminative third novel (and fourth book) by Irish/Turkish/English author O’Neill (Blood-Dark Track), is a Dutch-transplanted Londoner working in New York City at the start of the 21st century. Though a successful equities analyst, Hans is given more to reverie than to action. When his wife announces she is taking their young son back to London, Hans, stunned, remains in New York. He gets drawn into a friendship of sorts with Trinidadian entrepreneur Chuck Ramkissoon, who dreams of making cricket a great American sport, and who--Hans hears later--is eventually found dead in a canal. Hans's meandering, somewhat old-fashioned narrative takes a patient reader in and out of past and present: from his cricket-playing, fatherless childhood through his distant relationship with his mother, rocky marriage, and his own fatherhood, gradually revealing the appeal of the slowly unfolding game of cricket and fast-talking Chuck Ramkissoon to a man in his early thirties finding his way in a post-9/11 world. Recommended for literary fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/08.]--Laurie A. Cavanaugh (Reviewed May 15, 2008) (Library Journal, vol 133, issue 9, p93)

Kirkus Reviews

/* Starred Review */ Novelist and memoirist O’Neill (Blood-Dark Track: A Family History, 2001, etc.), born in Ireland and raised in Holland, goes for broke in this challenging novel set largely in post-9/11 New York City.Dutch banker Hans, who narrates the story from the perspective of 2006, and his British wife Rachel, a lawyer, get more than they bargain for when they transfer their jobs from London to Manhattan for an American experience. After the World Trade Center bombing, they move out of their Tribeca loft into the Hotel Chelsea, and soon Rachel decamps with their baby son back to London. Hans visits regularly but the marriage flounders. Distraught and lonely, he joins a Cricket league made up mostly of Asian and Caribbean immigrants. Soon he (along with the reader) falls under the sway of Chuck Ramkissoon, a Trinidadian umpire. Chuck is a charming entrepreneur who has opened a kosher sushi restaurant; an inspiringly patriotic immigrant with plans to save America with Cricket; and a petty gangster running a numbers game. A classic charismatic rogue, Chuck leads Hans on a "Heart of Darkness" tour of New York's immigrant underbelly. As Hans begins to realize that Chuck might be a dangerous friend to have, Hans and Rachel's marriage disintegrates. At Chuck's recommendation, Hans moves back to England to win her back. Throughout, O’Neill plays with the nature of time and memory: Hans's Dutch childhood with his single mother, for example, still haunts him in New York. The shifting truths of who Chuck has been, who Hans's mother was, who Hans and Rachel are to each other, depend on what O’Neill calls "temporal undercurrents."This love story about a friendship, a place and a marriage is not easy to read, but it's even harder to stop thinking about. (Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2008)