Read Laagland by Joseph O'Neill Auke Leistra Online


De Nederlandse bankier Hans van den Broek woont in New York op het moment van de aanslagen. Vlak daarna verlaat zijn vrouw hem samen met hun zoontje, waarna hij twee jaar in een hotel verblijft. Op zoek naar een nieuw bestaan in een land waar hij zich niet langer thuis voelt, vindt hij geborgenheid tussen de immigranten die cricket spelen in de stadsparken. Tijdens een vanDe Nederlandse bankier Hans van den Broek woont in New York op het moment van de aanslagen. Vlak daarna verlaat zijn vrouw hem samen met hun zoontje, waarna hij twee jaar in een hotel verblijft. Op zoek naar een nieuw bestaan in een land waar hij zich niet langer thuis voelt, vindt hij geborgenheid tussen de immigranten die cricket spelen in de stadsparken. Tijdens een van deze wedstrijden ontmoet hij Chuck en er ontstaat een gedeelde droom om de stad zijn eerste echte cricketveld te geven. Maar dan ontdekt Hans dat Chuck ook minder onschuldige dromen nastreeft....

Title : Laagland
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9789023440529
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 298 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Laagland Reviews

  • Edan
    2018-11-12 14:07

    I want to say something about this novel because although it impressed me and I respected O'Neill's skills as a writer, I didn't find it that enjoyable. There's a pleasing boldness to the syntax and diction, and there were a few passages that felt, well, wise, and when I gave myself some time to really dig into the text, I was impressed by the fluid time shifts and how the story felt unstructured and impeccably structured at once. But, the novel never pulled me in; I never really felt inside of the story. It felt a bit too over-manicured, a bit too studied. A bit too perfect, perhaps? I haven't lived in New York, either, and so all the descriptions of the city didn't do much for me, as wonderfully written as they were. (I must admit, I hate when people wax poetic about NY. Yeah, yeah, we know, it's amazing there--the pizza, the energy, blah blah blah...) Likewise, I've never played cricket or seen it being played, and even now I feel the need to look online to understand the sport. I liked how cricket managed to be a metaphor for many things for Hans, but I only liked that on an intellectual level. I felt nothing. I found myself, too, frustrated by Hans' continual memories of his boyhood--I had a hard time caring, to be blunt. I would also hit passages that overwhelmed me with their abstract quality, like this one:"Unlike many others, I managed to stay awake; and could not help thinking, as I endured an ominous dramatization of the loss of vision produced by alcohol and by nightfall and the disastrous consequences thereof, of my father's life ending in a smashup presumably just like those being presented on the screen, and of the fact, unconsidered by me before, that on top of everything else his early death had given an unfairly morganatic quality to his marriage: he had been posthumously robbed, in his son's sentiments, of a ranking equal to that of his wife."Maybe people do think like this, do make connections in this way, but I'm having a hard time believing it. I know this is a retrospective tale, but at times that studied retrospection has the effect of filing down and buffing (to keep up this manicure metaphor) consciousness to something overly designed.So, I'm giving this three stars not because I necessarily liked it, but because it's a truly admirable novel, and I can understand why someone else might love it. (Oh, and I thought Chuck was a terrific and fascinating character.)

  • Joshua
    2018-10-24 07:17

    Am I the only one who didn't like this book? I rarely if ever give up on a book, but if I wasn't reading this for a book club, I would have stopped reading early on. The main character is boring, dry and unmotivated. He doesn't seem to care much about anything, so why should we? Aren't books supposed to be about the most exciting/scary/miserable/wonderful parts of the character's lives, not the drudgery of day-to-day, ho-hum slogging through a miserable existence? Perhaps I missed something. This book is not about 9/11. It is just about some people who lived near it. At times it is hard to follow due to the stream-of-consciousness style it is written in. What makes that worse is that when a jump was made, I hardly cared due to the fact that I was not invested in this sad man's life.

  • Cory
    2018-11-13 08:15

    Beautiful. At times, devastating.Firstly: this book is not about the sport of cricket, so if that's at all a hindrance to your reading it, let that go. Sure there's some talk of the game and its particulars, and it creates a central catalyst from which the action of the story takes place, but it is about so much more: the city of New York post 9/11, the state of being lost, and the nation one comes from, goes to, and feels an outsider of or assimilated into, not to mention the vast universe of relationships (marital, parental, friend-al) and the responsibilities and heartbreaks inherent in each.A few disclosures that may have affected how moved I was by the book: 1. I lived in New York for the exact number of years, even the exact years, 1998-2003, as the narrator. I think he did a great job reflecting on those post-shock days of 2001, without going overboard on descriptions. It's more impressionistic than that. But if you haven't lived in New York, or visited for at least a small amount of time, some of the references and reveries may not mean as much to you as they did to me. If you haven't seen the man dancing tango with a full sized female mannequin (a femalequinn?) in the Times Square subway stop, the narrator's description of him may seem like so much novelistic invention. Rather, to me, it's a detail that he draws from actuality that makes me that much more absorbed into the surrounding invention.2. I read this at a time when I, like the narrator, was feeling a bit lost and raw. Sometimes there's a perfect collision of the right book at the right time, and this was definitely one of those for me. 3. During my time in NYC, I dated a girl named Cricket (honestly - although it wasn't her given name). Books like this are why I read. They're worth the slog through mediocrity and the not-quite-thereness of other books if you find one that hits the sweet spot. This particular book may not be that for everyone, but let me know when you get to O'Neill's definition of a fathom and tell me if you don't have to catch your breath a little bit.

  • Glenn Sumi
    2018-11-11 10:55

    I know many people loved this book. It made several “best of the year” lists when it was published in 2008 and won the prestigious PEN/Faulkner Award. More than one reviewer I respect compared it to The Great Gatsby. Yes, author Joseph O’Neill certainly knows how to write a gorgeous sentence or two, and the last few pages have an elegiac, Gatsby-like quality.But I found Netherland a slog, one of the longest, most pointless 250-page novels I’ve recently read.In a New York City still recovering from the events of September 11, 2001, Hans van den Broek, a calm, rich, white, middle-aged, Netherlands-born equities analyst – separated from his wife, who’s taken their young son back to London – discovers a cricket-playing subculture in the city’s various boroughs. This conjures up his own childhood playing the sport in the Hague.I think I know what O’Neill, an Ireland-born New Yorker who’s lived a peripatetic life (Mozambique, South Africa, Iran, Turkey and Holland) is trying to do by focusing on this game, which draws the city’s (mostly) unseen immigrants to it.The sport of cricket, we’re told, is a metaphor for various cultures – “from Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka” – to live in harmony. Early on, after a bit of violence flares up at a game Hans attends, an enterprising Trinidadian-American named Chuck Ramkissoon intercedes.“Cricket, more than any other sport, is, I want to say” – Chuck paused for effect – “a lesson in civility. We all know this; I do not need to say more about it.” A few heads were nodding. “Something else. We are playing this game in the United States. This is a difficult environment for us. We play where we can, wherever they let us. Here at Walker Park, we’re lucky; we have locker-room facilities, which we share with strangers and passersby. Most other places we must find a tree or bush." … It doesn’t matter that this ground was built as a cricket ground. Is there one good cricket facility in this city? No. Not one. It doesn’t matter that we have more than one hundred and fifty clubs playing in the New York area. It doesn’t matter that cricket is the biggest, fastest-growing bat-and-ball game in the world. None of it matters. In this country, we’re nowhere. We’re a joke. Cricket? How funny. So we play as a matter of indulgence. And if we step out of line, believe me, this indulgence disappears.”That’s a rousing, compelling passage, and the ambitious Chuck – whose violent death is presaged in the book’s first pages – is certainly a more articulate, colourful character than Hans.But here and elsewhere O’Neill underscores his points a bit too insistently: the reaction to black and brown immigrants in the paranoid wake of 9/11; the fact that cricket is itself a quaint product of colonialism; how Hans, like those Dutch settlers centuries before him, is “discovering” this new land. Oh yeah, Hans specializes in analyzing oil and gas stocks, with all that that implies about globalization, aggression and greed.I also found the book’s meandering structure – now we’re in London, now New York, or is it the Netherlands or St. Kitts? – needlessly challenging. And Hans and his wife remain ciphers. I have no idea what drew them together, and I don’t believe his bond with his son, although Hans keeps jetting over to London to be with him.I should also point out that Hans is staying temporarily at the Chelsea Hotel, where he meets figures who feel like authorial contrivances – one walks around with angel wings – rather than real people or even intriguing symbol people. If the whole book had been like this, fine, but these sections are jarring.Cricket as a metaphor? Well, yeah, sure, okay: if you say so. I personally found it dull. But are you telling me, Joseph O’Neill, that given this strained metaphor, you’re not even going to give us some sort of climactic game so we can see all of your ideas and half-baked characters IN ACTION??!! That, folks, is simply lazy.

  • Will Byrnes
    2018-11-19 08:59

    Chuck is dead. The rest is flashback. Hans van den Broek is from Holland, but lives in New York City circa 9/11 with his British wife. He is a successful equities trader with plenty of money, and an abiding love for cricket. After 9/11 his wife returns to London with their child, leaving not only New York, but her husband. Lonely and a bit lost, Hans gets involved playing cricket, forming a family for himself, a community at least. O’Neill writes about cricket at the same level of expertise that a super fan might write about baseball. It is warming, if a bit confusing. It is during a heavily contested match that Hans encounters Chuck, one of the game umpires. They form a lovely friendship, one that helps Hans during times of emotional need. There is a lot about belonging in this book, feelings for place, whether Holland, New York, London. O’Neill does a masterful job of describing parts of New York that are very familiar to me, but may seem more than ordinary for the non-native. His DMV scene is incredibly true to life, not only his physical description, but the tone of the workers, the whole ambience and Kafka-esque mentality. This is not a 9/11 book, per se, but he captures the bewilderment that wafted through the air of the city like the reek of the lower Manhattan months-long charnel house fires. There are several characters I found very engaging, the angel in particular, an oddball living at the Chelsea Hotel, Chuck’s wife Ann, his girlfriend Eliza, Chuck’s partner.It was a satisfying read. My only real issue was that I was not entirely convinced about why Rachel decided to move back to the mother country. She did say that she was afraid of another attack in New York, and felt safer in London, but it seemed that there should have been more to it, at least more to it that was explained to the reader. A small quibble. This is a very nice book about belonging, relationships, men and women, place. Not jump up and down and scream wonderful, but satisfying like a large, well-cooked meal.

  • Ken-ichi
    2018-11-11 14:17

    I don't know, I might get back to this. I like the side characters, the writing is nice, but God, middle aged apathy and anomie is just about the most boring subject imaginable, pretty much on par with teenage vampire romance.Later...After sampling the praise heaped upon this novel by the literary establishment (and at least one of my more literarily-inclined friends), sitting down and reading it did nothing to assuage my acute sense of literary insecurity. What, exactly, am I not getting here? “Brilliant,” “stunning,” and “touched by greatness” were not the adjectives awaiting enunciation as I closed the book. More like, “dull,” “lacking direction,” or “untouched and untouching.” Hans, a wealthy Dutch financial analyst specializing in oil stocks, is a profoundly boring protagonist. I recently heard Laura Miller from criticizing Bella from Twilight as being too bland, too lacking in individuality to hold the reader’s attention, which I thought to be unfair, given my belief that stories requiring the reader’s immersion and participation actually *need* a somewhat featureless protagonist so the reader can comfortably inhabit them without too much dissonance (a belief largely fed by Scott McCloud’s thoughts on the appeal of cartoon abstractions). Hans, however, seems too insubstantial to inhabit. What does he like? What does he think? What would he do if X happened? He seems surrounded by characters with very strong opinions and the will to act upon them (Chuck, Rachel), but all he ever seems to do is react. His wealth and typical mid-life marital disintegration make it difficult to muster sympathy for his travails, and cricket, his one passion in life, is so incomprehensible and irrelevant that it can’t serve as a point of psychological attachment either, at least from an American perspective. He’s just... lame.Rachel and Chuck and the host of side characters are much more fun, as are O’Neill’s many elegantly-wrought micro-digressions on matters ranging from distance and death to the entitled braggadocio of New Yorkers. I loved the way Abelsky’s clipped, ridiculous, present tense, up-talking monologues (“These guys? One hundred percent ass holes.”) contrasted with Chuck’s ebullient perorations and the narrator’s mellifluousness. Lots of small bits of beautiful detailing.The whole, though... This is not a narrative, with direction and boundaries. The major plot points, that Hans and Rachel end up back together and Chuck eventually meets a grisly end, are laid out in the first pages. So is it more of a depiction of post-9/11 lower upper-class life? A paean to one of New York’s infinite subcultures? A tone poem about post-9/11 anxiety and emotional cauterization? A structural commentary about how life can be random yet not absurd? Maybe the questions of what the book is or what it’s trying to communicate are the wrong ones, but if so what should I be asking?I would recommend this to people who think boring Dutch dudes are awesome. If you like cricket, double win.Wordspluvial (adj): of or relating to rain. Latin strikes from beyond the grave. Again. (p. 89)poleaxed (adj): felled with a poleaxe, a kind of battle axe. Ok. (p. 91)exodist (n): member of an exodus? I guess. Seems made-up. (p. 224)

  • Yulia
    2018-11-17 06:59

    Mr. O'Neill, please don't condescend to explain to us the history of cricket in New York City, how our fields are all wrong but really have their own common charm; or tell us the aeteliogy of "aftermath," making a broad and awkward simile about how lawn mowing really does remind those who are inclined to make general observations (you) of memory, of how it keeps growing back not matter how much you want it to be tidy; or of how what passes for grass is not flagrant in the States and never well-mowed, thus contradicting your own simile about memory's lawny quality; or be so generous as to mention all the boroughs, even your character's brave taxi ride through the Bronx to Riverdale, past people playing cricket on an overlapping court in Van Cortland Park, which is really like a Bruegel when you think of it. Yes, yes, I've pulled up an image of a Bruegel and it really does remind me of Van Cortland Park. How apropos! I'm sure your more worldly and culturally literate friends will eat your book up, much as a cow gnaws on grasses, you could say if you were the type to make agrarian connections. But not you. You're busy telling us what we don't know about New York. Do tell . . . someone else. I'm astute enough to know when a writer intends for a character to be obnoxious and foolish and when the writer himself can't prevent but have his own limitations come out in his character's voice. Or, I could edit my review and say how unbearably tiresome a character O'Neill has knowingly constructed for our frustration. But I don't think he did.

  • Paul Bryant
    2018-11-10 06:02

    Man with megaphone : Bryant - stop reading now. Move away from the book, slowly. Yes, this was a mistake, so here's a little warning for potential readers: this novel is about cricket! it really is. Cricket matches, cricket pitches, cricketers, crickety situations, cricket as a Metaphor for Life - given that I dislike sport as much as it dislikes me except maybe tennis and even that mostly sets my teeth on edge (Andy Murray in total monotone : "It was a really tough martch, he is a very tough opponent, I was lucky to come through, I had a really tough breakfast today, at this level of the competition all breakfasts are tough") this was not the right novel for little moi. My idea of a terminally boring movie : Field of Dreams.What movie did Netherland remind me very strongly of? Hint : Not I Spit on Your Grave.Also, this novel is written in the melancholic, mature, midlife, manly meditational style you come across in stuff like Independence Day and The Risk Pool and I can't take any more of that aftershave voice!

  • Steve
    2018-11-01 08:15

    If you feel culturally discombobulated reading this most recent book by Joseph O’Neill (the prize-winning half-Irish, half-Turkish writer) narrated by Hans (the Dutch investment analyst working in New York by way of London) whose two main topics are cricket (as played by ex-pat West Indians) and his wife (the Venusian to his Martian), that may have been part of the point. Hans doesn’t feel completely at home in any of his worlds. He confesses to being lost and clueless. The more you read, though, the more you don’t believe it. In fact, there are several examples where you’re convinced he’s sandbagging. He’ll say he doesn’t understand something, but as he elaborates, you realize he picks up on plenty. Questions of why people are the way they are mystify us all, and for Hans the puzzlement is at an advanced level. The issues he raises are themselves evidence of insight. It helps, too, that the writing is so rich.Part of what I liked about the book is how the foreign is made more familiar. The bits on the cricketing subculture were actually pretty interesting. It was also intriguing to get an outsider’s point of view on the competitive theorizing that the well-educated applied to society’s ills in the aftermath of 9/11. O’Neill was quoted as saying this was a novel of voice. With Hans, he had a compelling one, complete with nuance and lilt.It was also a book with stories. The most vivid one involved a larger-than-life Trinidadian named Chuck Ramkissoon. Chuck had a missionary’s zeal for cricket, an immigrant’s hope for the future, and a wheeler-dealer’s sense of compromise between legality and success. Hans had his own story, too, with a wife and young son at the heart of it. New York at that time was not the only shaky ground. Between Chuck’s ambitious dreams and Hans’s lifting fog, what stories there were to be told carried their bigger points well enough.

  • Lauren
    2018-11-08 08:18

    It's really too late to talk about this book, but I had to finish it tonight and that should say it all. The loneliness of New York (and let's face it: modern life or whatever that means to you) is so palpable in this book. Chuck and Hans are two unlikely friends, thrown together in a post 9/11 New York, out of step with their families and connected by a love of cricket. This connection makes up for the wayward actions played out by these men. Postcolonial, post 9/11: Isn't it all about finding common humanity despite the utterly scarred and screwed up state of the world? This book speaks to all the unlikely friendships that see us through the horrors of history and the wrenching pain of loss and fractured family. Those people haunt us and make us better people, despite the confusion and disconnect that they so often leave in their wake. This book reminds me of the nostalgia and wistfulness of Fitzgerald. You ache to see connection where there is none and doing so makes you treasure all the more the fleeting moments of togetherness that mark these characters' lives. And your own.

  • Megan Baxter
    2018-11-21 11:04

    I don't get it. I like to flatter myself that I'm not a particularly unperceptive reader, but when it comes to this book, I don't get it. I don't get anything about it. I don't hate it, but I have no idea what this book is about. I have no idea why it won so many prizes.Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  • Beth
    2018-11-19 05:58

    Netherland received much pre-release praise and deservedly. If Netherland is not a masterpiece, and I certainly am not saying it is not, then Joseph O'Neill is at the very least a masterful writer. Reading this book is like being taken on a treasure hunt through New York; London; The Netherlands; the game of Cricket; and mostly, love, loneliness, and loss. Drift along O'Neill's stream of consciousness and you'll be treated to gems of glittering prose, deep psychological understanding, and philosophical insight that speaks to us in our 21st century condition in a way that I have not encountered before. Literate, witty, moving, compulsively readable; this is a book to savor rather than devour. The pain one has had to go through to recognize the veracity of his portrayal of a day at the D.M.V. is greatly alleviated by that portrayal - it would be humorous if it were not so true. The character of Chuck Ramkissoon still haunts my thoughts. I loved this book.

  • Kristen
    2018-11-12 11:05

    This Booker Award nominee has all the makings of a favorite book for me-- a lonely man searching for his purpose in life. I love understated, quiet novels that force readers to look at everyday happenings and interactions in a different way. And this book started off lovely with passages like this: Some people have no difficulty in identifying with their younger incarnations: Rachel, for example, will refer to episodes from her childhood or college days as if they'd happened to her that very morning. I, however, seem given to self-estrangement. I find it hard to muster oneness with those former selves whose accidents and endeavors have shaped who I am now. But it sharply veered off course. There is a fine line between subtle and dull. I'm not sure why but this one crossed the line into dull. I found very little insight from the life of Hans and his relationships. What I felt was pity. And who wants to feel pity for 250+ pages?

  • KnowWhatILike
    2018-11-16 12:58

    I should have counted the words I ought to have looked-up while reading Joseph O'Neil's "Netherland." They must have numbered at least one hundred. Not a bad trick to play on someone with a masters degree from an Ivy League university. Also, there were those inordinately complex sentences that I needed to reread at least three times to get a glimmering of their meaning. Perhaps, an English professor's dream and the basis for a literary essay. But the makings for a great novel? I think not, without a good plot and character development to back up those fancy words and sentences. I am perplexed why this book has been selected by The New York Times as one of the ten best books of the year and how it made the cut for the Man Booker Prize's long list. Apparently, all the reviewers were mesmerized by Mr. O'Neil's literary style to the point that they overlooked other ingredients normally associated with a good book. For me, "Netherland" was simply boring and pretentious. I plodded through to the end but then wondered why I had bothered.I decided to read "Netherland" because it has been described as a post-9/11 novel. There are several references in this book to the emotional impact of 9/11 on New Yorkers and on the main character Hans whose wife uses the threat of future terrorist acts as a pretext to move back to London along with their son. A book that I found much richer in its discussion of 9/11 was "A Thousand Veils." It tells about a lawyer, totally immersed in the corporate greed of Wall Street, whose last-minute escape from the North Tower leads him to question his values and results in his life-changing decision to assist an Iraqi refugee. This is a much more satisfying solution than Hans' response in the aftermath of the crisis to bury himself in the game of cricket.

  • David Lentz
    2018-11-10 13:22

    The writing style of Joseph O'Neill is a pure, unadulterated joy to read: every word is thoughtfully and creatively placed into the intelligent narrative voice. The novel deals with a man's personal efforts on many fronts to understand intimately those aspects of his life which are significant but distant -- remotely just beyond or nether to his grasp. The protagonist, Hans, seeks to wrap his arms around the great city of New York, which is not uncommon and, indeed, is almost a trite concept for a novelist. But the way that O'Neill confronts the City and portrays his nether experience is profound, expressive and wisely articulate. The City's roots as New Netherlands and his Dutch background in The Hague assume meaningful, well crafted, literary significance in the story line. Hans also seeks to come to grips with his bewildering relationship with his wife after 911, an enigmatic friend, Chuck, and his work as a highly paid energy analyst for a financial firm operating in New York and London. The game of cricket enters into the story line as Chuck strives to establish this ancient, foreign game as the New York Cricket Club by building a pitch on a small abandoned airport in Brooklyn. The civility and social structure of the game in a nation so immersed in well established national sports like baseball intrigues. The characters of the novel are brilliantly portrayed with perceptive nuance as they struggle to overcome their own personal strife and assert their individual marks upon a vast and absurd City. I once read that love is the coming to nearness of the distant. This central theme of "Netherland" really lies at the heart of the human condition. The ability to embrace in flawed human arms the significant absurdities of life and make sense of them is perhaps only found through inspired strokes of intellectual pursuit and bold acts of love. Otherwise, the Netherland remains, well, nether and aloof leaving us alone without a clue while we inhabit regions shaped by harsh, bewildering forces of humanity and nature. I really enjoyed the power and relevance of this great contemporary novel and encourage you to embrace "Netherland" wholeheartedly.

  • Jessica
    2018-11-20 13:03

    This book, somewhat reminiscent of Ian McEwan's book Saturday, tells the story of Hans, a banker originally from The Hague, and late of London, who lives in New York with his lawyer wife, Rachel, and their small son until the events of 9/11 sour Rachel on their New York life and she and the little boy return to London. Hans, finding himself adrift in the city, living at the Chelsea Hotel, is befriended by a Trinidadian businessman who introduces him to the New York immigrant subculture centering around outer-borough games of cricket. Hans seems to seek connection, but always remains somewhat outside -- in London he is Dutch, in New York he's a player of cricket, not baseball, he's a white face among black and brown, he's a straight arrow in a shady world of scammers and gangsters.I'm not sure that this book takes you from point A to point B, but instead lets you bob along with Hans as he tries to figure out what he feels and what he wants. In the end it's not quite as satisfying as I'd have liked it to be, but I found the depiction of this particular New York compelling and Hans sympathetic.

  • Gregory Baird
    2018-11-07 10:01

    “How do you re-imagine your life?” When I first read about “Netherland” it was presented as a 9/11 novel. This is not entirely the case. In fact, 9/11 the day barely figures into the plotline at all – it is the tumultuous after-effects of 9/11 that are explored in Joseph O’Neill’s infinitely clever, if flawed, novel. At the outset we meet Hans van den Broek in present-day London, where he has recently relocated in order to rejoin his wife and son after a trial separation. He gets some sad news regarding Chuck Ramkissoon, a former friend of his from his days as a single man reeling from 9/11 angst and his family’s abrupt departure, news which sets Hans off on the reverie that is the plot of “Netherland”. In his mind he retraces the years after that fateful September in 2001, when his happy marriage began to crack and, literally, split apart, he lost interest in his successful career, and a desperate loneliness led him into a friendship with the charismatic but morally suspect Chuck Ramkissoon. Through Hans’ odyssey O’Neill does not explore 9/11 so much as he explores life in the post-9/11 world. But that is not all; O’Neill also delves deeply into the immigrant experience and the psychological effects of adopting another country as your own. “It is truly a terrible thing when questions of love and family and home are no longer answerable.” After finding himself abandoned and confused, Hans begins a quest to rediscover himself. It all starts with something most New Yorkers – most Americans, in fact – would not even notice in their everyday life: cricket. Hans discovers a cricket league formed mostly by cab drivers and such who moved to the US from countries where cricket was a regular pastime. Hans has been unmoored in his own life, so he welcomes the opportunity to revisit a beloved sport and, through it, he attempts to put his life back into perspective – to regain the sense of control that has been stolen from him (“what was an inning if not a singular opportunity to face down, by dint of effort and skill and self-mastery, the variable world?”). Hans quickly discovers that cricket in New York is very different from the European version of the game he is accustomed to, and with this metaphor intact O’Neill uses American cricket to explore the larger theme of immigration: what compromises are made, what are the sacrifices, and what aspects of the self are lost when one moves from one country to another? What does one find? What are the gains? It’s actually rather fascinating. Were this and Hans’ desolation as he wanders alone in the city the primary focus of the novel it would have been better.Unfortunately, O’Neill is more interested in introducing Chuck Ramkissoon, a Trinidadian émigré who schemes to bring cricket to the forefront of the American consciousness, and a fortune to himself in the process. His is the more traditional, prosaic tale of one man’s desperation for the American dream – heightened by the fact that as an immigrant, Chuck feels like he is only seeking what he was promised, but nevertheless the plotline feels stale and unimaginative. And that is particularly disappointing because the rest of “Netherland” sparkles with originality and wit. When it inevitably comes to light that Chuck has been dealing with shady characters to make his American dream a reality, sealing his fate once and for all, it is not terribly surprising or compelling. It’s too fitting, really.“Netherland” is at its best when it is telling Hans’ story, and it is unfortunate then that the bulk of it is tied up so intimately with Chuck’s story – because Hans’ journey is infinitely more effecting and touching. Still, O’Neill proves to be a remarkably talented writer, and it will be interesting to see what his next move is.Grade: B

  • Lee
    2018-10-31 09:16

    An admirable (more than enviable) read? I really admired the prose at times, especially when describing NYC. Learned a lot about cricket, too. But didn't quite believe in Chuck or even the narrator, felt the author breathing life into a seam in the back of his characters' necks. Didn't love that the narrator makes $10,000 each working day, or has $2 million in savings. Didn't laugh or smile or chortle at much of anything. Made few noises while reading. But again, I really respected the prose 90% of the time and how the author conjured NYC. The so-called "emotional angle" felt sort of false or forced - and childhood backstories always seemed to inconveniently slow the present story, almost to the point where I rushed through stuff about growing up in the Hague, about his parents, again because it felt added after the fact, tacked on. With all that said, all I did last night was read till I'd finished the last 150 pages. And I wasn't at all dissatisfied while or after reading it. But it doesn't seem to live up to its blurbs. A book that's definitely worth reading, but I'm not sure I'll remember it much in a year. Sort of like Walter Kirn's "Up in the Air," which also was on the cover of the NYT's Book Review a few years ago. Well done, a serious literary tone, serious themes, well-rendered scenes, engaging exposition, but ultimately it reads maybe too much like a performance of serious literary fiction? Not enough of a sense that real blood and guts (and humor) are on the page (too artificial)? Not risky enough (too determined)? 3.45678910 stars?

  • Rebecca
    2018-11-12 08:05

    I'm befuddled about why this book did so well--the only reason I'm still reading it is because I assume something amazing must happen in the middle of it? Or, thousands of readers secretly want to be cricket players? There are some lovely descriptions of New York, but that alone isn't enough to make a book for me--there is a lack of animation here that casts a pall over the entire thing. Yes, this character is somewhat frozen--but if he is so frozen that a reader can't find much to concern herself with, there's something wrong. The wife is an absolute non-entity, so I'm not concerned about this marriage working out. The other characters aren't compelling either. And even with the mention of a suspicious death in the beginning, the plot is barely present. What am I missing?

  • Marc
    2018-11-05 12:16

    A solid 2.5 stars. Parts I really liked and several parts where I was just calculating how many pages were left. Some really great writing but the overall story seemed muddled. Like mixing the idea of love, cricket, immigration, and 9/11 together into a drink where they still taste like separate ingredients. Maybe the main character was just a little too numb for me. He didn't seem to care, so why should I?

  • Steven Walle
    2018-11-18 13:15

    An interesting read. I will give a complete review on it tomorrow.Enjo and Be Blessed.Diamond

  • Ryan Chapman
    2018-10-26 12:04

    I suppose it would be a compliment to the author that his prose is so shimmering and note-perfect that I am acutely self-conscious of even my own words in reviewing his novel. It's almost a call-to-arms, this slim book on post-9/11 New York informing us, "Yes, books can be this intelligent and unassuming, still."What's most striking is the way in which Netherland is impressive: the "great" books of the past few years have showcased major accomplishments in voice, storytelling, morality or scope. Here I'm thinking of the recent works ofJunot Diaz,Ian McEwan,Jonathan Franzen,Jeffrey Eugenides,Cormac McCarthy,David Mitchell, andJoan Didion. They've smartly written about average people, or sometimes very dumb people. This book is a departure: we have an exceptionally intelligent and educated first-person narrator who functions almost as a metaphor for the appeal of the book itself: the Dutchman Hans Van Der Broek knows a lot of people across cultural and racial lines, but can't connect to anyone (least of all his estranged British wife). I think this book similarly should be read by a wide swath of people, but it will primarily attract those comfortable with exceptionally rich and self-consciously poetic prose. It may turn off those readers who are used to an emphasis on story, plot, or even character.I could go on for pages about Netherland. My advice is to read the first 10 pages in the bookstore to see for yourself. You'll know very quickly whether the book is for you. I'm glad it was for me, as it was one of the richest reading experiences I've had this year. (The other was2666.)

  • Chris
    2018-11-09 14:18

    purchased this book off big hype id been reading about it. another post 9/11 book about new york (it seems like thats all i read these days!) that deals with one man's coping (or lack thereof) after his family returns to london after the towers fell. couldnt really get into it after the first 100 pages or so - i could only read so much about cricket - but i found the more i read, the more i liked. o'neill comes across as a very intelligent author who writes beautiful sentence after sentence. i grew to really enjoy his style and the way he was able to bring the reader to experience so many unique emotions. on the surface, it seems like a story about nothing, but deeper down its a a story about everything important: personal identity, male friendships (truly dead-on), family, love. by the end of the book i was wishing for more. i look forward to re-reading it again, as i feel its one of those books that gets infinitely better each time through. great gatsby-esque in many regards.

  • Nathan Oates
    2018-11-11 13:19

    This much praised novel was one of the recent books I was eager to read and, just as the reviewers promised, it is full of beautiful writing and elegant mediations on post-9/11 America and the role of sport in our lives. The best passages of the book were those about cricket and in these pages O'Neill manages to capture the beauty and elegance of the communities sport engenders in a way I've not seen before in fiction. In the end, though, the book doesn't quite hold together. I was far more interested in the narrator than Chuck, and though the narrator professes his love for Chuck, I never quite believed, or felt, this affection for the character.

  • Bobby
    2018-10-25 06:23

    The novel follows Hans van den Broek, a Dutch banker now working in New York City. After being forced out of their Manhattan loft because of their proximity to the 9/11 events, Hans's fearful wife promptly leaves with his son to return to her native London. Through seemingly serendipitous encounters, Hans becomes consumed with the hidden community of West Indian cricket and more specifically with Chuck Ramkissoon, a mysterious Trinidadian with an entrepreneurial spirit and dreams of transforming the entire country through cricket. With skillful, well-paced writing and intriguing circumstances, reviews comparing O'Neill to Banville and Fitzgerald are definitely appropriate.

  • Vincent
    2018-10-22 11:22

    Terrific novel about post 9/11 New York from an outsider's perspective. While the cricket theme is at times stretched to accommodate more than it seems capable, Netherland remains a creative and unexpected extended metaphor for the fluid nature of "American culture"--which is, precisely and paradoxically, the absence of a coherent culture as such--and its methods of acknowledging, accommodating and ultimately adapting to new strands of foreign cultural practice.Netherland also boasts one of the most arresting passages I've read in recent time about the privileged role that our internal reveries and fantasies play in the totality of our lives--although many deny it and, indeed, seek to rid themselves, in the name of "practicality and "being realistic, of the propensity to dream. The passage is below."But I was also drawn to Chuck. I had him down as a lover of contingencies and hypotheses, a man cheerfuly operating in the subjunctive mood. The business world is densely margined by dreamers, men, almost invariably, whose longing selves willingly submit to the enchantment of projections and pie charts and crisply totted numbers, who toy and toy for years, like novelists, with the same sheaf of documents, who slip out of bed in the middle of the night to pitch to a pajama'd reflection in the windowpane. I've never been open to the fantastical aspect of business. I'm an analyst--a bystander. I lack entrepreneurial wistfulness. In other respects, of course, I'm as faraway as they come. That winter, for example, when the cricket World Cup was being played in southern Africa and several old teammates of mine played for the Netherlands against the great Indians and Australians, I imagined that events long ago had taken a different turn and that in my youth I'd discovered the great secret of batting--something to do with the position of the head, maybe, or the preliminary movement of the feet, or a special dedication of memory--with the result (I imagined further on those black mornings when I woke early to follow the Dutch matches on's live scoreboard) that I was now one of those orange-clad Hollanders stationed on the pale lawns of Paarl and Potchefstroom, and that when Brett Lee, say, took twenty spirited strides towards me, and leaped, and hurled the whie one-day ball at my toes, the ninety-two-mile-per-hour blur came into focus and hung before me like a Christmas bauble, and with a simple push of my long-handled bat I sent the ball gliding to the boundary's white rope. How many of us are completely free of such scenarios? Who hasn't known, a little shamefully, the joys they bring? I suspect that what keeps us harmless from them is not, as many seem to believe, the maintenance of a strict frontier between the kingdoms of the fanciful and the actual, but the contrary: the permitting of a benign annexation of the latter by the former, so that our daily motions always cast a secondary otherwordly shadow and, at those moments when we feel inclined to turn from the more plausible and hurtful meanings of things, we soothingly find ourselves attached to a companion farfetched sense of the world and our place in it."

  • Paul
    2018-11-17 11:56

    I hesitate to judge this book because I stopped midway through it. I hate quitting on a book, especially one considered to be the second coming of "The Great Gatsby," but I just don't have the confidence that I will ever get into it. From the get-go, it was hard for me to follow its meandering narrative. It constantly jumps to different time periods, going back and forth between memories, and dreams, and the present situation, like a storyteller with ADHD. It delves into moments of the character's life that feel so mundane and random. Though the writing is very good, such devotion to the protagonist's ordinary experiences felt pointless, as if O'Neill is just trying to fill up pages for the sake of filling up pages. The protagonist came off as boring and detached. And in the end, I just couldn't see and feel what so many of the accolades are saying about this book.

  • Tony
    2018-11-15 05:56

    There are some very intelligent observations and writing here but the main, several storylines never really merged for me. I liked his quintessential descriptions of the rudeness and uncaring nature of American municipal clerks. But, cricket is for dweebs. The players play, but form no personal attachments. Kind of how I feel about this book. I rushed to the end.

  • Andrew
    2018-11-14 10:11

    Did I care about the main character? No. Were any of the secondary characters sketched out well enough for me to have a chance of caring about them? No (although that's not necessarily a dealbreaker). Did the plot interest me? Well, it revolved heavily around cricket, which doesn't interest me, and the author didn't do much to convince me it was any more interesting than it seemed when I watched it baked at 16 years old in my Indian friend's parents' den, when I tried to be entertained (making it basically the Phish concert of sports). And a lot revolved around New York, which does interest me quite a bit, but the discussion rarely emerged above the level of "this is a city where many ethnicities live (footnote: many of whom play cricket)." Urgh.The prose was well-executed, but this was like going to a quilting museum. No matter how artfully done they are, you can't get over the fact that you're looking at quilts (with much respect to my hard-quilting Grandma).

  • David Sasaki
    2018-11-01 09:03

    I listened to this book as an audiobook over the past couple months while folding laundry, washing dishes, and going for bike rides. Usually I stick to non-fiction for audiobooks, but Jefferson Mays' incredible narration of the most diverse set of characters imaginable -- the reserved Dutch narrator, his biting British wife, effusive Caribbean transplants in New York -- brings them to life. Chapter after chapter I couldn't decide if I was more impressed with the craftsmanship of O'Neill's sentences or the way that Mays delivers them. This is not a book written by someone who was greatly influenced by television as a child. Dialogue is sparse, and almost always yields to long, dreamy descriptive passages that often contain memories embedded in memories. It is a European's celebration of New York, written for a commonwealth audience and with a commonwealth sensibility. I'm not at all surprised to see that my American friends gave it two or three stars while my friends from commonwealth countries all gave it four or five stars. There's an arms-length, urban mysticism to O'Neill's portrait of New York City that reminds me of Chris Abani's depiction of Los Angeles in The Virgin of Flames, and it's a style that isn't common among American writers. The book introduces its American readers to a new language, the language of immigrants connected by cricket, and thus by the British empire. I was reminded of the long afternoons I spent 13 years ago with my host family in Kathmandu watching cricket matches that seemed to have no beginning, no end, and no narrative arc. My host family was somehow able to tap into a frame of observation that eluded me. Netherland also subtly portrays the cultural differences between Trinidadians, Americans, the British and the Dutch. It is clear that O'Neill has spent considerable time with all four cultures. I aspire to craft sentences like O'Neill's, each one seemingly sculpted from some mental marble. That doesn't necessarily make it easy to read; beauty demands attention. And so the book isn't for everyone, but if you appreciate descriptive, reflective, understated literature, then I highly recommend it.