The 150-word Review: Hans van den Broek is listless and lonely in post-9/11 New York. His wife has left him for the safe familiarity of London with their young son. On a shabby cricket pitch in Staten Island, Hans rediscovers a sport he once loved, and serendipitously befriends a fellow enthusiast, Chuck Ramkissoon, an enigmatic and infectiously optimistic Trinidadian, who introduces Hans to New York’s history and its vibrant immigrant neighborhoods.
Joseph O’Neill’s deeply considered prose has a genteel quality, full of nuance and restraint, that evokes the spirit and rhythm of cricket, which serves as a metaphor for Hans’ estrangement from his family. Occasionally, the narrative bogs down with Hans’ melancholic recollections or Chuck’s wistful pontification. “Netherland” truly shines during the detailed, but accessible, descriptions of cricket and the wonderfully atmospheric scenes of New York. O’Neill’s triumph lies in his ability to capture the city amidst the first days of its recovery.
You will like this book if you like: Gatsby-esque dreamers; bowlers, batsmen, and wickets; a vision of New York that isn’t a cliché (unlike Sex in the City); a modern Alexis de Tocqueville; idiosyncratic hotel residents; and West Indian bon vivants.
This book will go great with: Callaloo
Set the Mood With: Englishman in New York by Sting (even though Hans is actually Dutch)
Clavinism (stuff that will not make you look cool in a bar): Actually Norm, a “sticky wicket” originally referred to a wet cricket pitch, which causes a bowled ball to dangerously spin or bounce unpredictably, making it “difficult situation” for a batsman.