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Netherland

Cover of Netherland

Netherland

A Novel
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New York Times Book Review Best Book of the Year

In a New York City made phantasmagorical by the events of 9/11, and left alone after his English wife and son return to London, Hans van den Broek stumbles upon the vibrant New York subculture of cricket, where he revisits his lost childhood and, thanks to a friendship with a charismatic and charming Trinidadian named Chuck Ramkissoon, begins to reconnect with his life and his adopted country. As the two men share their vastly different experiences of contemporary immigrant life in America, an unforgettable portrait emerges of an "other" New York populated by immigrants and strivers of every race and nationality.



From the Trade Paperback edition.

New York Times Book Review Best Book of the Year

In a New York City made phantasmagorical by the events of 9/11, and left alone after his English wife and son return to London, Hans van den Broek stumbles upon the vibrant New York subculture of cricket, where he revisits his lost childhood and, thanks to a friendship with a charismatic and charming Trinidadian named Chuck Ramkissoon, begins to reconnect with his life and his adopted country. As the two men share their vastly different experiences of contemporary immigrant life in America, an unforgettable portrait emerges of an "other" New York populated by immigrants and strivers of every race and nationality.



From the Trade Paperback edition.
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  • From the book

    The afternoon before i left London for New York--Rachel had flown out six weeks previously--I was in my cubicle at work, boxing up my possessions, when a senior vice-president at the bank, an Englishman in his fifties, came to wish me well. I was surprised; he worked in another part of the building and in another department, and we were known to each other only by sight. Nevertheless, he asked me in detail about where I intended to live ("Watts? Which block on Watts?") and reminisced for several minutes about his loft on Wooster Street and his outings to the "original" Dean & DeLuca. He was doing nothing to hide his envy."We won't be gone for very long," I said, playing down my good fortune. That was, in fact, the plan, conceived by my wife: to drop in on New York City for a year or three and then come back.

    "You say that now," he said. "But New York's a very hard place to leave. And once you do leave . . ." The S.V.P., smiling, said, "I still miss it, and I left twelve years ago."

    It was my turn to smile--in part out of embarrassment, because he'd spoken with an American openness. "Well, we'll see," I said.

    "Yes," he said. "You will."

    His sureness irritated me, though principally he was pitiable--like one of those Petersburgians of yesteryear whose duties have washed him up on the wrong side of the Urals.

    But it turns out he was right, in a way. Now that I, too, have left that city, I find it hard to rid myself of the feeling that life carries a taint of aftermath. This last-mentioned word, somebody once told me, refers literally to a second mowing of grass in the same season. You might say, if you're the type prone to general observations, that New York City insists on memory's repetitive mower--on the sort of purposeful postmortem that has the effect, so one is told and forlornly hopes, of cutting the grassy past to manageable proportions. For it keeps growing back, of course. None of this means that I wish I were back there now; and naturally I'd like to believe that my own retrospection is in some way more important than the old S.V.P.'s, which, when I was exposed to it, seemed to amount to not much more than a cheap longing. But there's no such thing as a cheap longing, I'm tempted to conclude these days, not even if you're sobbing over a cracked fingernail. Who knows what happened to that fellow over there? Who knows what lay behind his story about shopping for balsamic vinegar? He made it sound like an elixir, the poor bastard.

    At any rate, for the first two years or so of my return to England, I did my best to look away from New York--where, after all, I'd been unhappy for the first time in my life. I didn't go back there in person, and I didn't wonder very often about what had become of a man named Chuck Ramkissoon, who'd been a friend during my final East Coast summer and had since, in the way of these things, become a transitory figure. Then, one evening in the spring of this year, 2006, Rachel and I are at home, in Highbury. She is absorbed by a story in the newspaper. I have already read it. It concerns a group of tribespeople that has emerged from the Amazon forest in Colombia. They are reportedly tired of the hard jungle life, although it's noted they still like nothing better than to eat monkey, grilled and then boiled. A disturbing photograph of a boy gnawing at a blackened little skull illustrates this fact. The tribespeople have no idea of the existence of a host country named Colombia, and no idea, more hazardously, of diseases like the common cold or influenza, against which they have no natural defenses.

    "Hello," Rachel says, "your tribe has come to light."

    I'm still smiling when I answer the...

About the Author-
  • Joseph O'Neill was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1964 and grew up in Mozambique, South Africa, Iran, Turkey, and Holland. His previous works include the novels This is the Life and The Breezes and the non-fiction book Blood-Dark Track, a family history centered on the mysterious imprisonment of both his grandfathers during World War II, which was an NYT Notable Book. He writes regularly for The Atlantic. He lives with his family in New York City.

Reviews-
  • Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated "New York is not what most people imagine it to be. Just as marriage, family, friendship and manhood are not. Netherland is suspenseful, artful, psychologically pitch-perfect, and a wonderful read. But more than any of that, it's revelatory. Joseph O'Neill has managed to paint the most famous city in the world, and the most familiar concept in the world (love) in an entirely new way."
  • Publisher's Weekly (starred review) "A dense, intelligent novel... O'Neill offers an outsider's view of New York bursting with wisdom, authenticity, and a sobering jolt of realism."
  • Joseph O'Connor, author of Star of the Sea "O'Neill writes a prose of Banvillean grace and beauty, shimmering with truthfulness, as poised as it is unsettling. He is a master of the long sentence, of the half-missed moment, of the strange archaeology of the troubled marriage. Many have tried to write a great American novel. Joseph O'Neill has succeeded."
  • Sebastian Barry, author of A Long Long Way "Somewhere between the towns of Saul Bellow and Ian McEwan, O'Neill has pitched his miraculous tent. Netherland is a novel about provisionality, marginality; its registers are many, one of the most potent being its extremely grown-up nostalgia. The dominant sense is of aftermath, things flying off under the impulse of an unwanted explosion, and the human voice calling everything back."
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