Netherland By Joseph O'Neill
Published May 2008 by Knopf Publishing Group
Hans van den Broek is a Dutchman who has immigrated to the U.S., by way of London, with his English wife and small son. In the aftermath of 9/11, his wife decides that she must return to England, taking Hans' son with her. Left on his own, Hans' stumbles into the world of cricket where he meets a Trinidadian named Chuck Ramkissoon. Hans has money and Chuck has a plan--he wants to build a cricket stadium in New York. The two men bond over a love of cricket and a shared immigrant experience. But it turns out there is more to Chuck than originally meets the eye.
This book is an enormous critical success. The New York Times called it "stunning" and "the wittiest, angriest, most exacting and most desolate work of fiction we've yet had about life in New York and London after the World Trade Center fell." Which makes me feel a little stupid. Because I just didn't get "stunning" from this book. It is an interesting read, it is a unique plot. I listened to it on CD (and it was really well read) and that may have effected how I felt about it. Sometimes I think it's harder to really get into books that I'm listening to.
This book has very little action. It's mostly a journey down memory lane. And you know how sometimes, when you're thinking, you wonder how you got to a certain point from where you started? This book is like that. Hans will start reminiscing about an affair he had after his wife left which leads him to his wife which leads him to his mother. You have soon forgotten where he started or even which point of time you are supposed to be in. Because this book jumps around a lot in time. So much so that I think if you don't read it quickly, you will completely lose track of what's going on. It is a great examination of the immigrant experience in this country--particularly for someone who lives in the insular world in which I live.
So, even as I write this, I still haven't decided exactly how I feel about this book. I liked it, but I keep wondering why I didn't like it was much as the critics did.