Despite cricket’s seeming irrelevance to America, the game makes his exquisitely written novel Netherland a large fictional achievement, and one of the most remarkable post-colonial books I have ever read ...cricket in this novel is much more than these associations... Most poignantly, for one of the characters in the novel cricket is an American dream, or perhaps a dream of America... This is attentive, rich prose about New York in crisis that, refreshingly, is not also prose in crisis: it’s not overwrought or solipsistic or puerile or sentimental, or otherwise straining to be noticed ...if Netherland pays homage to The Great Gatsby, it is also in some kind of knowing relationship with A House for Mr. Biswas. These are large interlocutors, but Netherland has an ideological intricacy, a deep human wisdom, and prose grand enough to dare the comparison.
In Joseph O'Neill's third novel, Netherland, there are two great love objects: the city of New York and the game of cricket. Hans van den Broek, the novel's Dutch narrator, seeks solace in both the place and the sport after September 11, 2001, when he finds himself adrift in the city ...doesn't turn on plot. In both form and content, it questions the idea that a life can be told as a coherent story. It is organized not chronologically but as a series of memories linked by associations ... Through the voices of his characters, O'Neill articulates the problem of a narrative self ... Always sensitive and intelligent, Netherland tells the fragmented story of a man in exile — from home, family and, most poignantly, from himself.
This compact novel, in which an emotionally buttoned-down new arrival recounts the downfall of another recent transplant who is, by contrast with him, an extravagant dreamer, has won admiring comparisons to that most American of novels, The Great Gatsby ... In Netherland, narrator and author appear to have the identical prospect before their mind’s eye, but their mind’s eyesight, as it were, remains obstinately farsighted, so that distant but well-defined figures...appear stamped against an indistinct middle ground dominated by the vaguely looming, obscurely perceived shapes of Hans’s work and family ... Without question, Netherland is the product of real intelligence and design, and an unusually well-written book at that, even if the prose shows more belletristic expertise than it does the features of a true individual style.