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Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Netherland Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a book that's a meditation on setting--time and place--more than anything else. It goes back and forth over time, from London to Holland to New York and beyond. It tells the story of a Hans Van den Broek, a Dutch businessman alone in the Chelsea hotel after 9/11. Hans rediscovers his love of cricket and eventually makes his way back to his estranged family in London, while spending time with an extraordinary denizen of New York, Chuck Ramkissoon, an entrepreneur and dream-spinner of uniquely American, and New York, sensibility.
doesn't have much plot beyond this, and to be honest I occasionally had to push my way through it, but it did have the most gorgeously evocative and incredibly witty passages. The visuals of the book, from a bedraggled drag queen with angel wings, to a remote cricket field in the outer boroughs baking in the sun, to a mom and her son ice-skating up a river in Holland, have stuck with me--so if you love clever language and vivid prose imagery, I heartily recommend it.

Also, the novel contains allusions to The Great Gatsby which the erudite among you will lap up like thirsty kittens.

And here's James Wood on that very subject, and on the book as 'postcolonialist.'

To sum it up overall, here's my dad's thoughts re: Netherland: "I absolutely loved it, but I can see how would have seemed pretty boring when I was younger." That pretty much says everything I've just said, but far more concisely.

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