‘Netherland’ by Joseph O’Neill – A Book Review

After 9/11

Apparently, this was a difficult book for the author, Joseph O’Neill,  to sell to publishers.  I only bought it because Jason on Tuesday Book Club tagged it as a book he enjoyed and recommended to viewers.  I have never been disappointed in any of his literary recommendations.

The critics variously describe Netherland as a story about love, marriage, the American dream, New York City and London after the bombing of the twin towers, cricket and to me, weakest of all, a murder mystery.  The storyline twists and turns with memorable  characters  from different ethnic backgrounds popping up here and there and whose respective philosophies  on life make the story so interesting.  In one extreme  example, there is the Turkish dramatic  ‘angel’ resplendent in white feathery wings and tights who lives upstairs in one of the apartments above Han’s, and who seeks Hans out for companionship.   Then there are those immigrant men who bring their passion for cricket with them to New York. They  make up ragtag teams to play the game whenever they get the chance and can find a venue that will allow such sacrilege on American playing fields.

The book features all of the above.  But to me the motif brought forth the old adage that  ‘the child maketh the man’.   All through the difficult times the narrator, Hans van den Broek of Dutch heritage, is propelled back to his childhood and the bittersweet memories of life with his devoted mother and without his father, who died when he Hans, was a young boy.   It is about the poignancy of sitting in the present and suddenly being transported into another place and time far back into the recesses of memory.  Whatever;  it is a good read.

– Copyright To Anne Frandi-Coory 7 September 2010

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