Sunday, February 8, 2009

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

Joseph O'Neill writes a damn good sentence. His novel of post-9/11 New York has been lauded in all of the right places, most notably the cover the New York Times Book Review, and by all of the right people (James Wood, Michiko Kakutani) for good reason.

The narrator, Hans, has been displaced, along with his wife and son, from his Tribeca apartment to the Hotel Chelsea by the attack on the World Trade Center and later abandoned by the wife and son, who return to London unable to come to grips with a post-9/11 Gotham. Suffering through the loneliness of not seeing his son except for bimonthly trips across the Atlantic and his ever more distant (both literally and figuratively) wife, Hans eventually discovers a network of cricketers who play almost unnoticed at various parks around the city. He is befriended by Trinidadian Chuck Ramsikoon (Hans is usually the only white player among the cricketers) whose dream is to build a cricket stadium in Brooklyn and restore the sport to the prominence it once enjoyed in America.

Throughout Netherland, O'Neill explores the meanings of loneliness in the midst of a teaming city, relationships involving friends, race and spouses and the effects of familial memories on all of these things. And he does so with exquisitely wrought sentences that manage to never sound convoluted or pretentious.

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