I finished reading Netherland by Joseph O’Neill this lazy Sunday afternoon – and thing about this book if that there is a voice ( Hans van den Broek ) that just stays with you. You want to know what is happening on each page, you want to understand the complexities of his marriage that is now strained by geography, romance or lack thereof, and a basic sense of loss.
Loss from 9-11-01, loss of family and his wife taking his child back to London, and while he remains in NYC he has nothing connecting him to the city. This changes when he meets Chuck Ramkissoon.
The beauty of the English language is nurtured, the eloquence of the arranged words and time shifts are handled with care and passion. This book jumps into situations, places, people, that are difficult to properly capture – but O’Neill invests in capturing the moment, the characters, and transporting the reader. When the story takes the characters to a West Indian dance party, you can simply hear the soca music, you can see the Dutch man quickly taking his drinks before he goes to try and fit in and be part of the gyrating momentum of the dance hall locals. The author captures the emotional complexity of being lost for direction, clinging to things that are known, and then the sort the acceptance and change of character that comes with understanding the truth about yourself.
This book is about New York, about Holland, London, Cricket, about being American or maybe about the Immigrant communities of NYC that have become in some ways, more American than those natively born. Netherland is a book that will quite possibly educate you on the Dutch history of New York, on Cricket as an American game, and on how it felt to New Yorkers in post-9/11 times. It’s a beautiful book that is worth re-reading from time to time. At least when you need to feel painfully alive.