Netherland by Joseph O’Neill
It charts the life of Hans van den Broek, an anglicised Dutchman who goes to live and work in New York with his wife shortly before the millennium. Forced out of their luxurious apartment and into a hotel after 9/11, the cracks in their relationship eventually send Rachel back to England with the couple’s young son.
Intelligent, solitary and in emotional turmoil, Hans forms an unlikely friendship with Chuck Ramkissoon, a Trinidadian umpire passionate about cricket. The book begins with news of Chuck’s murder and Hans takes the reader from the beginning of the saga right back to the present day in London, his memories of New York interspersed with recollections and musings from his childhood. The civilised and dependable world of cricket, its customs and its gentlemanliness, its peacefulness and its comradeship, are a contrast to the chaos and confusion of New York.
Whilst Hans’ psyche is apparently laid open in this book, his veneer of reserve is never really penetrated. Hans’ reality is expertly portrayed, but the cliché of an unlikely friendship forged by a lonely man detracts from the otherwise very real exploration of mundanity and the evocation of a changing world, which has echoes of Ian McEwan’s Saturday. It’s an ending which by anyone’s standards is happy, but the book will- probably intentionally-leave you with a nagging emptiness.
If you like this, you may also like:
‘Saturday’, by Ian McEwan.
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