Netherland

Joseph O’Neill

Somewhere on the internet, Netherland was compared to Open City, and I swapped my copy of the Teju Cole book with my friend’s copy of this one so we could compare our comparisons. There are a lot of parallels from the post-9/11 New York City setting to the searching meanderings of the main characters, though the main difference is probably that Netherland has a more traditional progression that ends on a note of resolution. In general, a lot more happens and the isolation of the protagonist from those around him is less extreme for the most part, though much of those isolation is equally profound.

In Netherland, the Dutch-born ex-pat joins a cricket team after his wife and son move back to London without him, and playing this game from his childhood encourages him to reminisce about his childhood and reconsider memories of his mother from the distance of his middle adult life. It also introduces a set of characters into his life who he otherwise wouldn’t have met, namely other immigrants who play this decidedly un-Americanized sport. There is one guy who is determined to make the game popular in the US, which leads to a another unlikely group of people. I had almost forgotten that I hadn’t posted about this book until unloading unwanted possessions on Craigslist brought an Orthodox Jew starting a sushi business to my door, which reminded me of one of those unlikely people.