In early 2006, Chuck Ramkissoon is found dead at the bottom of a New York canal. In London, a Dutch banker named Hans van den Broek hears the news, and remembers his unlikely friendship with Chuck and the off-kilter New York in which it flourished: the New York of 9/11, the powercut and the Iraq war. Those years were difficult for Hans -- his English wife Rachel left with their son after the attack, as if that event revealed the cracks and silences in their marriage, and he spent two strange years in New York's Chelsea Hotel, passing stranger evenings with the eccentric residents. Lost in a country he'd regarded as his new home, Hans sought comfort in a most alien place -- the thriving but almost invisible world of New York cricket, in which immigrants from Asia and the West Indies play a beautiful, mystifying game on the city's most marginal parks. It was during these games that Hans befriends Chuck Ramkissoon, who dreamed of establishing the city's first proper cricket field. Over the course of a summer, Hans grew to share Chuck's dream and Chuck's sense of American possibility -- until he began to glimpse the darker meaning of his new friend's activities and ambitions.'
Netherland is a novel of belonging and not belonging, and the uneasy state in between. It is a novel of a marriage foundering and recuperating, and of the shallows and depths of male friendship. With it, Joseph O'Neill has taken the anxieties and uncertainties of our new century and fashioned a work of extraordinary beauty and brilliance.
PEN/Faulkner Award Winner 2009
'There is a very special sort of gratitude you can feel for a book that is so formidably written that it has you anxious to get back to it and pining a little bit to be away from it .' Sebastian Barry, Guardian (Books of the Year)
'Too good for the Booker.' Robert McCrum, Observer (Books of the Year)
'Extraordinary. O'Neill is a writer of dizzying elegance.' Financial Times
'It is hard to know which is stranger -- that a great American novel has been written about cricket, or that a great cricket novel should be set in America. But both are true. "Netherland" is ambitious, intelligent and deeply perceptive.' The Times
'This is a multi-faceted, poignant and considered novel, which, through the small-fry story of one man's struggle for the meaning in his marriage, career and an unknowable New York, does something momentous: it evokes life for all of us.' Time Out (Book of the Week) Book of the Year
"…here's what Netherland surely is: 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. On a micro level, it's about a couple and their young son living in Lower Manhattan when the planes hit, and about the event's rippling emotional aftermath in their lives. On a macro level, it's about nearly everything: family, politics, identity. I devoured it in three thirsty gulps, gulps that satisfied a craving I didn't know I had…[O'Neill] seems incapable of composing a boring sentence or thinking an uninteresting thought." The New York Times Book Review - Dwight Garner
'Dazzling!and told with great grace and daring.' Kate Summerscale, Sunday Telegraph (Books of the Year)
'The post-9/11 novel we've been waiting for: a witty, vivid, aphoristic, fiercely intelligent narrative.' Philip French, Observer (Books of the Year)
"Novelist and memoirist O'Neill (Blood-Dark Track: A Family History, 2001, etc.), born in Ireland and raised in Holland, goes for broke in this challenging novel set largely in post-9/11 New York City. Dutch banker Hans, who narrates the story from the perspective of 2006, and his British wife Rachel, a lawyer, get more than they bargain for when they transfer their jobs from London to Manhattan for an American experience. After the World Trade Center bombing, they move out of their Tribeca loft into the Hotel Chelsea, and soon Rachel decamps with their baby son back to London. Hans visits regularly but the marriage flounders. Distraught and lonely, he joins a Cricket league made up mostly of Asian and Caribbean immigrants. Soon he (along with the reader) falls under the sway of Chuck Ramkissoon, a Trinidadian umpire. Chuck is a charming entrepreneur who has opened a kosher sushi restaurant; an inspiringly patriotic immigrant with plans to save America with Cricket; and a petty gangster running a numbers game. A classic charismatic rogue, Chuck leads Hans on a "Heart of Darkness" tour of New York's immigrant underbelly. As Hans begins to realize that Chuck might be a dangerous friend to have, Hans and Rachel's marriage disintegrates. At Chuck's recommendation, Hans moves back to England to win her back. Throughout, O'Neill plays with the nature of time and memory: Hans's Dutch childhood with his single mother, for example, still haunts him in New York. The shifting truths of who Chuck has been, who Hans's mother was, who Hans and Rachel are to each other, depend on what O'Neill calls "temporal undercurrents."This love story about a friendship, a place and a marriage is not easy to read,but it's even harder to stop thinking about. " Kirkus Reviews
Joseph O'Neill is an Irish barrister living in New York. He is the author of two previous novels, 'This Is The Life' and 'The Breezes', and a memoir, 'Blood Dark Track'.