Saturday, August 1, 2009
This novel by Joseph O'Neill is not as big a book as its hype makes out, but it's a lovely tale of how human life can be. It is probably not the most profound meditation on the effect of 9/11 in New York, as one blurb has it, and the echoes of Great Gatsby heard by another critic are very faint.
On its own terms, however, Netherland is a wry and poignant love story, a compact and layered slice of life where the novelist effortlessly segues from high finance to pick up cricket.
It is perhaps the passion for cricket that is the freshest element in the book, because who would ever think it could be so much fun. And yet in O'Neill's loving description of the game and what it means to the players, you find yourself as the reader being infected. Washington, like New York, has what appears to be an active amateur cricket league, though I haven't found anyone willing to go watch a game with me.
O'Neill writes in a clean, literate style and is so deft with his characterizations that you see the people and forget you're reading a book. What more can you ask for from a writer?