Friday, November 11, 2022

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill


This was not the life Hans van den Broek expected to be living.  He followed his wife, Rachel, from London to New York when she was transferred.  His job, analyzing the oil industry and its stocks is in high demand and he finds a job easily.  They live in an apartment with their young son, Jake, and Hans thinks everything is fine.  But its not.  Rachel is increasingly worried about living in New York after the 9/11 tragedy and is upset that Hans doesn't share her fears.  Eventually she moves back to London, taking their son and Hans agrees to fly there every other weekend as they decide what the separation means.

Hans is left at loose ends.  He moves to the Chelsea Hotel, one of a number of long-term residents and makes friends with the staff there.  He rediscovers his love of cricket and finds a league that plays in the city, mostly immigrants from places such as Trinidad and the other islands.  His entry to the league is Chuck Ramkissoon, an entrepreneur who always has a finger in lots of pies and who seems to know everyone.  He introduces Hans to his friends, his wife and his mistress and takes Hans on mysterious errands.  

This book was a Booker nominee in 2008.  Hans is introduced to the immigrant experience in America, not that of the wealthy such as he and Rachel's lives are, but that of those who come poor hoping to make money in the land of opportunity.  Once he is stranded there without his family, he comes to understand their lives better and their feelings of separateness and loneliness.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

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