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.
‘[I have] not read anything that quite so brilliantly captured the exuberant madness and cultural diversity of [New York].’ Jeremy Paxman, Guardian (Books of the Year)
‘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)
‘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)
‘Too good for the Booker.’ Robert McCrum, Observer (Books of the Year)
'"Netherland" is an affecting portrait of constrained love and loss, of cultural and emotional estrangement and of the difficulty of knowing others intimately…a piquant blend of vibrancy and elegy reminiscent of Paul Auster's writing.' FT
'”Netherland” is so expertly woven that it is impossible for a reader not to admire what it essentially is – a beautifully written exploration of memory and self.' Sunday Telegraph
'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 Centre fell. 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.' New York Times
'Elegant and profound.' Sunday Times
'Extraordinary. O'Neill is a writer of dizzying elegance.' FT
'O'Neill's novel was nominated by critics as a book of the year more times than any other title in 2008, and it's not hard to see why. Its perceptiveness and lingering air of sadness will beguile you more powerfully than you may at first expect.' Robert Collins, The Sunday Times
Hans van den Broek, the Dutch-born narrator of O'Neill's dense, intelligent novel, observes of his friend, Chuck Ramkissoon, a self-mythologizing entrepreneur-gangster, that he never quite believed that people would sooner not have their understanding of the world blown up, even by Chuck Ramkissoon. The image of one's understanding of the world being blown up is poignant this is Hans's fate after 9/11. He and wife Rachel abandon their downtown loft, and, soon, Rachel leaves him behind at their temporary residence, the Chelsea Hotel, taking their son, Jake, back to London. Hans, an equities analyst, is at loose ends without Rachel, and in the two years he remains Rachel-less in New York City, he gets swept up by Chuck, a Trinidadian expatriate Hans meets at a cricket match. Chuck's dream is to build a cricket stadium in Brooklyn; in the meantime, he operates as a factotum for a Russian gangster. The unlikely (and doomed from the novel's outset) friendship rises and falls in tandem with Hans's marriage, which falls and then, gradually, rises again. O'Neill (This Is the Life) offers an outsider's view of New York bursting with wisdom, authenticity and a sobering jolt of realism.