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Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

Netherland (edition 2009)

by Joseph O'Neill

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,6211332,283 (3.45)212
Authors:Joseph O'Neill
Info:Vintage (2009), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:2012-10, Pen/Faulkner Award Winner, CD

Work details

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill (Author)

  1. 50
    The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (heidialice)
  2. 31
    Saturday by Ian McEwan (thesearch)
    thesearch: Sleekly written intimate post 9/11 portraits.
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    The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai (jayne_charles)
    jayne_charles: Both have stunning writing making up for absence of plot, and common ground in terms of the immigrant experience in New York
  5. 00
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    sushidog: Perhaps an odd recommendation, but both novels explore a (temporary) immigrant's experience in America.
  8. 01
    Man in the Dark by Paul Auster (rjuris)

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» See also 212 mentions

English (126)  Dutch (4)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (132)
Showing 1-5 of 126 (next | show all)
Read this a while ago. I did not really enjoy the tale or characters that much. Remember most just slogging through. ( )
  tsgood | May 30, 2014 |
I don't understand all the fuss over this, in my opinion, not particularly interesting nor well-written novel. In fact, I've enjoyed reading reviews of the novel more than reading the novel itself. I at first thought that my lack of appreciation stemmed from ignorance of the game of cricket, which functions as an extended metaphor for the immigrant postcolonial experience (here,in post 9/11 NYC)and also as a model for a mulitethnic, 21st century, urban, getting-along-in-a -civil-and-productive-fashion life. But O'Neill pushes the cricket references to the point where they become a conceit and, to my mind, simply boring. The disrupted love story between Hans and his estranged-for-awhile wife Rachel is unconvincing. Rachel is a rather selfish know-it-all and I found myself disappointed (to the extent that I could work up any emotional involvement in this novel at all)that Hans reunites with her (granted, his relationship with his son Jake is at stake). The story of Chuck Ramkissoon, the autodidact Trinidadian savant and businessman cum gangster (or vice versa) who ends up murdered (we never find out by whom) and floating in the Gowanus Canal is somewhat more intriguing than the story of Hans and Rachel, but not enough to pull the novel as a whole out of its doldrums. Enough said. ( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
The word for this novel is congealed. I was really liking it, because I too am a cricketer living in the U.S. I enjoyed his snide attempts to explain cricket to an American audience, and his humorous observations on expatriate life, and his quite pleasant prose style. And then I noticed, thanks to a friend of mine, that it's all quite empty and ham-fisted. Fifty pages or so after I thought to myself, you know, he really is exoticizing Chuck in a most unpleasant manner, the wife tells him that he's exoticizing Chuck in a most unpleasant manner... and he says "No, Chuck is my friend," and that's the end of that. Similarly, just when I start to think, you know who must have killed Chuck? His front-man... the front man is on the phone denying that he killed Chuck, and a few pages later, the narrator has decided that he couldn't have killed Chuck. And suddenly I saw all the seams, and all the cricket and expat fellow feeling and lovely prose style couldn't hold it together. It sounds great when the NYT Book review says this is "the wittiest, angriest, most exacting, and most desolate work of fiction we've yet had about life in New York and London after the World Trade Center fell." Except it's not very witty, not angry, not particularly exacting, and certainly not desolate. And then you notice that the comparison being made here is to *other novels about life in New York and London since 2001.* That's not such a huge category. ( )
1 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
I heard O'Neill read at Power House fundraiser after Sandy. He read from Netherland, a part I now know to be one of the few that makes his main character remotely likable. I agree with some who have commented that it is OK if a writer creates an unlikable character, except you get the feeling that O'Neill has not created a character, it is just his annoying and self-absorbed and dull person speaking/thinking/writing through this empty vessel. Aren't all characters like that?, one might ask. Well, I am not lit critic, but somehow, no, there is a difference between the author successfully creating an unlikable character and the author failing at it; you're left with what we call at home "white male writing." Hard to explain what that is, and it is not literal (i.e. the author might not be white, but invariably a man). Basically, the voice of an innately privileged, arrogant, self-centered, annoyingly ignorant, pity-me-cuz-I-am-so-helpless-because-I-grew-up-entitled person.

O'Neill is not a bad writer. On the contrary, his language flows smooth and unforced, his similes are occasionally breathtaking. And he is capable of creating likable characters. In fact, the only reason I finished the book, and I imagine this must be the case for many others, is to see what happens to Chuck. Perhaps the dull Dutch person (I forgot his name already, is this possible?!? Oh, yes, Hans! Of course!) is meant to be balanced perfectly with this vibrant crook from Trinidad. Oh, look the all-American immigrant Chuck shows Hans, the privileged oil stock broker the joys of New York... I don't know, why does every character have to be so true to the stereotypes? Why is Hans so reserved and dull? Why is Chuck a cheating, lively islander full of joy and laughter and ridiculous ideas? Why is the immigrant Jew so unpleasant, and fat? Don't you dare think O'Neill is trying to say something by all this, because throughout the book he is trying real hard to convince us that he really really does not mean anything by all of it. It just is the way it is.

One main complaint I did have about O'Neill's writing was he endless street walking directions. Even if I knew exactly where he was talking about in Brooklyn, I don't see why a whole paragraph has to give turn by turn directions. I also don't see why a whole paragraph has to list EVERY possible and imaginable club name.

In the end, I finished the book, as I said, just to see how what happened to Chuck actually took place. I didn't care about Hans, or his annoying wife. The most memorable parts of the book are the stories told by Chuck, no matter how ridiculous they may be. Perhaps that's expected; after all, it is not that hard to believe that privileged Hans has always led a pretty, yet dull life, and Chuck a troubled, yet vibrant one.

So I guess the decision one has to make before reading this book is: Do you want to read about the pretty, dull life some rich broker lived for a few years in New York, and listen to him blab on about cricket, New York, London, Amsterdam, cricket, on and on? Personally, if I am going to read someone incessantly blab on, I prefer Rushdie, who despite it all, manages to keep it all very interesting. ( )
  bluepigeon | Dec 15, 2013 |
I feel almost apologetic about the fact that I never quite got "Netherland" - especially in the light of glowing reviews from people whose opinions I respect.

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.

I really had to force myself to get through this. Basically, to have a book where almost nothing happens, you need to write with more suspense or force than this. And if you're going to write in this style, you need something to happen.

Maybe I just missed the point of this book. Maybe, somewhere in the confused mess there is a moral to it all. Maybe about relationships. Maybe about 9/11. Hey, maybe even about cricket. I just did not find it.

On second thought, I think I may have wasted my time. ( )
  Jawin | Nov 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 126 (next | show all)
added by AAGP | editSlate Audio Book Club (Jul 16, 2008)
...the narrative is unwieldily organised, the supporting characters are underdeveloped and the dialogue is often pretty bad....

The biggest problem, though, is Hans himself. In addition to being much less interesting than Chuck, he tells the story in a determinedly overambitious style....

O'Neill's take on the notion of the American dream is both unsentimental and cleverly attuned to that notion's grip on the local imagination. Perhaps stories of striving immigrants and America's ambiguous promise speak to New York reviewers on frequencies inaudible to outsiders. O'Neill has said that he wrote the book as "an American novel ... My first novel as an American novelist", and in this respect, he seems to have succeeded.
Netherland has been described variously as a "post-colonial" and a "Great American" novel. But this beguilingly subtle work transcends old geographical, political and temporal confinements as it renders the strange mutations, partial visions and bewilderments of our globalised world.
added by zhejw | editThe Guardain, Pankaj Mishra (Jun 6, 2008)
Despite cricket’s seeming irrelevance to America, the game makes his exquisitely written novel “Netherland” a large fictional achievement, and one of the most remarkable post-colonial books I have ever read.
added by zhejw | editThe New Yorker, James Wood (May 26, 2008)
...the wittiest, angriest, most exacting and most desolate work of fiction we’ve yet had about life in New York and London after the World Trade Center fell. On a micro level, it’s about a couple and their young son living in Lower Manhattan when the planes hit, and about the event’s rippling emotional aftermath in their lives. On a macro level, it’s about nearly everything: family, politics, identity. I devoured it in three thirsty gulps, gulps that satisfied a craving I didn’t know I had.
added by zhejw | editNew York Times, Dwight Garner (May 18, 2008)

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
O'Neill, JosephAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Leistra, AukeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I dream'd in a dream, I saw a city invincible to the attacks of the whole of the rest of the earth;

I dream'd that was the new City of Friends.

To Sally
First words
The afternoon before I left London for New York - Rachel had flown out six weeks previously - I was in my cubicle at work, boxing up my possessions, when a senior vice president at the bank, an Englishman in his fifties, came to wish me well.
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Wikipedia in English (4)

Book description
Hans et Rachel vivent à New York avec leur jeune fils lorsque surviennent les attentats du 11 Septembre. Quelque jours plus tard , ils se séparent , et Hans se retrouvent seul , perdu dan Manhatatn , où il ne ent plus chez lui . Sur des terrains de fortune Hans tente d'echapper à la mélancolie . Ce très beau livre , souvent compare à Gatsby le Magnifique , est à la fois une parabole sur la findu rêve américain et un roman d'amour aux résonances poignantes.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307388778, Paperback)

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Joseph O'Neill

Joseph O’Neill was born in Ireland and raised in Holland. He received a law degree from Cambridge University and worked as a barrister in London. He writes regularly for The Atlantic Monthly and is the author of two previous novels, This Is the Life and The Breezes, and of a family history, Blood-Dark Track, which was a New York Times Notable Book. O'Neill received the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for his third novel, Netherland. He lives with his family in New York City.

Question: President Obama mentioned in a New York Times Magazine profile that he’s reading Netherland. How do you feel about the President reading your book?

Joseph O'Neill: I'm very honored, of course.

Question: How is the world of Netherland particular to the United States after 9/11?

Joseph O'Neill: The story takes place in the aftermath of 9/11. One of the things it does is try to evoke the disorientation and darkness of that time, which we only emerged from with the election of President Obama.

Question: What is the importance of the sport of cricket in this book? Do you play?

Joseph O'Neill: I love sport and play cricket and golf myself. Sport is a wonderful way to bring together people who would otherwise have no connection to each other.

Question: One of your reviewers calls Netherland an answer to The Great Gatsby. Were you influenced by Fitzgerald’s book, and was your book written with that book in mind?

Joseph O'Neill: Halfway through the book I realized with a slightly sinking feeling that the plot of Netherland was eerily reminiscent of the Gatsby plot: dreamer drowns, bystander remembers. But there are only about 5 plots in existence, so I didn't let it bother me too much. Fitzgerald thankfully steered clear of cricket.

Question: Many reviewers have commented on the “voice” of this novel. How it is more a novel of voice than of plot? Do you agree with this?

Joseph O'Neill: Yes, I would agree with that comment. This is not a novel of eventful twists and turns. It is more like a long-form international cricket match (which can last for 5 days without a winner emerging), about nuance and ambiguity and small slippages of insight. And about language, of course.

(Photo © Lisa Acherman)

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:50:47 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In a New York City made phantasmagorical by the events of 9/11, Hans--a banker originally from the Netherlands--finds himself marooned among the strange occupants of the Chelsea Hotel after his English wife and son return to London. Alone and untethered, feeling lost in the country he had come to regard as home, Hans stumbles upon the vibrant New York subculture of cricket, where he revisits his lost childhood and, thanks to a friendship with a charismatic and charming Trinidadian named Chuck Ramkissoon, begins to reconnect with his life and his adopted country.--From publisher description.… (more)

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