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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Joseph O'Neill

[an overview of the reviews and critical reactions]

general information | review summaries | review and reception notes | links | about the author

To purchase Netherland

Title: Netherland
Author: Joseph O'Neill
Genre: Novel
Written: 2008
Length: 272 pages
Availability: Netherland - US
Netherland - UK
Netherland - Canada
Netherland - France
Niederland - Deutschland

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Why we haven't reviewed it yet:

Haven't got a copy yet

Chances that we will review it:

Decent, as the good reviews do make us curious

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Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Chicago Tribune . 17/5/2008 Art Winslow
Christian Science Monitor . 11/7/2008 Yvonne Zipp
The Economist C 28/6/2008 .
FAZ . 7/3/2009 Felicitas von Lovenberg
The Guardian . 7/6/2008 Pankaj Mishra
The Guardian C 14/6/2008 Christopher Tayler
London Rev. of Books . 17/7/2008 Benjamin Kunkel
The LA Times . 27/5/2008 Laurel Maury
NZZ am Sonntag . 1/3/2009 Andreas Isenschmid
The NY Review of Books . 20/11/2008 Zadie Smith
The NY Times A+ 16/5/2008 Michiko Kakutani
The NY Times Book Rev. A 18/5/2008 Dwight Garner
The New Yorker A 26/5/2008 James Wood
The Observer A 1/6/2008 Sean O'Hagan
Sunday Times B+ 8/6/2008 Stephen Amidon
The Telegraph . 24/5/2008 Ruth Scurr
The Telegraph . 15/6/2008 Beth Jones
The Times . 20/6/2008 Ed Smith
TLS B 23/5/2008 Stephen Moss
The Washington Post . 1/6/2008 Siri Hustvedt

  From the Reviews:
  • "Netherland is a story of equipoise, essentially, and the character of the murdered Chuck Ramkissoon, a shady businessman and cricket fanatic originally from Trinidad, serves as a foil to Hans and his malaise as he meditates on his past. The number of novels in which 9/11 serves as an orienting point are growing exponentially (and include works by Don Delillo, Julia Glass, Ken Kalfus, Jonathan Safran Foer, Claire Messud, Ward Just, Jay McInerney and Lynn Sharon Schwartz, to name just a few of the more prominent), but O'Neill has cleverly distanced Netherland from the tragedy by largely excluding it as a central concern for many of his characters." - Art Winslow, Chicago Tribune

  • "Happily, Netherland doesn’t suffer from the well-meaning grandiosity or ideological self-importance that has sunk so many plots. Instead, it’s a precisely rendered examination of the existential malaise experienced by certain city dwellers after the attacks. (...) Overall, it’s a sad but generous look at the effects of aftermath on a human life, whether one is grappling with a personal tragedy or horror on a grand scale." - Yvonne Zipp, Christian Science Monitor

  • "He aptly conveys his narrator’s enthusiasm for cricket. Yet the plot is light and fragile. Single pleasing paragraphs do not a sound novel make. However beguiling the decor, however beautiful the carved cornices, the gleaming brass fixtures, if the joists of a building are made of balsa wood it is not a good investment." - The Economist

  • "Die Prosa O’Neills weiß alles von der Erschütterung ihres Protagonisten, aber sie vermittelt sie nicht. Die Sätze dieses Autors sind wie aus Stein gemeißelt, markant und eindeutig. (...) Mit Niederland beweist Joseph O’Neill, dass man in einer Sprache, die nur vom Vorher weiß, vom Nachher erzählen kann. Leider hebt er damit seine Geschichte auf einen Sockel, von dem sie nur noch stürzen kann. Vielleicht macht sie gerade das zu einem großen post-amerikanischen Roman." - Felicitas von Lovenberg, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "One of O'Neill's masterstrokes is to make Hans, a rather banal financial analyst, a cricket purist in a tainted world. Hans can't decide whether the invasion of Iraq is a good or a bad thing. A self-confessed "ethical-political idiot", he is a dullard as husband and lover. But out on the cricket pitch he becomes a figure of solitary moral splendour, making a last defence of civilisation against the barbarians with the straight drive, the cut and the pull." - Pankaj Mishra, The Guardian

  • "O'Neill clearly knows this world inside out, and he details its workings with great specificity as well as a feeling for its symbolic heft. On the other hand, the narrative is unwieldily organised, the supporting characters are underdeveloped and the dialogue is often pretty bad. (...) The biggest problem, though, is Hans himself. In addition to being much less interesting than Chuck, he tells the story in a determinedly overambitious style." - Christopher Tayler, The Guardian

  • "O’Neill’s effort to gather such a variety of social spaces under the same Netherlandish banner has something stirring about it. (...) The descriptions of cricket are the best thing in the book, even or perhaps especially for an American reader to whom ‘cricket’ is chiefly an insect. (...) 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. Ultimately, the issue of the novel’s quality, its success, will probably be resolved by something else: namely, by whether the reader considers such things as the novel’s disconnection between cricket and life, the superior reality it confers on more ‘colourful’ people, and the uncomprehended quality of Hans’s work and marriage, to be, above all, formal traits to do with O’Neill’s novel, or psychological traits to do with Hans’s special case." - Benjamin Kunkel, London Review of Books

  • "O'Neill's writing is unendlingly beautiful. If it were enough to go from startling observation to startling observation, this would be a masterpiece. It's not. There are dime-store novels and half-baked MFA theses written with one-twentieth the skill that work better because something gets loved and something gets lost. No matter how sharp your perceptive knives, without warmth, no blood will flow. The Van den Broeks have sex without kissing each other. It's like a metaphor for failing to find communion with anything worthwhile, and then simply giving up. O'Neill gives us the loss without the love; the reason to read this book is that, for affluent Westerners, it's a scary little mirror." - Laurel Maury, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Was einen durch dieses Buch zieht, auch durch die etwas öderen Kapitel, ist aber O'Neills Sprache. (...) O'Neill ist frei von der Eitelkeit, die vielen Hochbegabten den Stil verdirbt, und flaneurhaft frei von der Streberei, die viele Autoren nur noch aufs Ziel und nicht mehr auf den Weg sehen lässt. Sein Geschmack zeigt sich auch daran, dass er -- ohne grosse Worte -- alles in den Schatten von 9/11 stellt, den Tag selber aber grade nicht beschreibt. Und dann ist da noch das Cricket !" - Andreas Isenschmid, Neue Zürcher Zeitung am Sonntag

  • "Netherland is only superficially about September 11 or immigrants or cricket as a symbol of good citizenship. It certainly is about anxiety, but its worries are formal and revolve obsessively around the question of authenticity. Netherland sits at an anxiety crossroads where a community in recent crisis -- the Anglo-American liberal middle class -- meets a literary form in long-term crisis, the nineteenth-century lyrical Realism of Balzac and Flaubert. (...) It is absolutely a post-catastrophe novel but the catastrophe isn't terror, it's Realism." - Zadie Smith, The New York Review of Books

  • "Joseph O’Neill’s stunning new novel, Netherland, provides a resonant meditation on the American Dream. (...) In recounting the story of Hans and Chuck, Mr. O’Neill -- who was born in Ireland and raised in the Netherlands, and who has written two other novels and a family history -- does a magical job of conjuring up the many New Yorks Hans gets to know. He captures the city’s myriad moods, its anomalous neighborhoods jostling up against one another, its cacophony and stillness, its strivers, seekers, scam artists and scoundrels." - Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

  • "But here’s what Netherland surely is: 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 Center fell. (...) I devoured it in three thirsty gulps, gulps that satisfied a craving I didn’t know I had. (...) Netherland is a bit like the wily and ebullient Chuck Ramkissoon. It has more life inside it than 10 very good novels." - Dwight Garner, The New York Times Book Review

  • "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. (...) Perhaps Joseph O’Neill is the writer this city has been awaiting: born in Ireland, reared in Holland, educated in England, and resident in Manhattan. If his writing has an English ease and classicism, it also has a world-directed curiosity, an interest in marginal lives which might owe something to O’Neill’s origins." - James Wood, The New Yorker

  • "O'Neill writes about cricket not with Beckettian economy, but with an insider's knowledge and a metaphorical sweep that recalls John Updike's paeans to basketball that run like an elegy for lost youth, and lost American innocence, though his epic series of Rabbit novels. The result is the first great American novel underpinned by a deep understanding of the complexity of spin bowling. Netherland is much more than that, though, being, among other things, a meditation on individual and communal loss, a hymn to New York in all its bruised, and bruising, vitality and a glimpse of the various, often surreal, ways in which immigrants embrace their new life while holding on fiercely to the one they have left behind." - Sean O'Hagan, The Observer

  • "Netherland is an elegant and occasionally profound book, although O'Neill's attempt to depict the break-up of Hans's marriage through the lens of 9/11 proves more obscuring than clarifying. Because it is never clear that the couple suffers from anything other than a garden-variety marital malaise, the use of the falling towers as the background and prompt to their crisis puts a weight on this strand of the narrative that it doesn't support." - Stephen Amidon, Sunday Times

  • "O'Neill is an elegant stylist and his sensibility is engagingly wry. (...) Netherland is paced like a thriller, but resolution of the mystery of Chuck's death is beside the point. In its poise, bizarreness, moral ambiguity and preoccupation with perspective, this novel recalls Hitchcock: it is the kind of haunting book he might have made into a poignant film." - Ruth Scurr, The Telegraph

  • "It contains almost too much for a single novel and at times the unnecessary adornment of plot asides and character cameos confuse the brilliance of O'Neill's writing. But while Netherland can feel like a garment that is slightly too fussy, it is so expertly woven that it is impossible for a patient reader not to admire what it essentially is -- a beautifully written exploration of memory and self." - Beth Jones, The Telegraph

  • "Netherland, a state-of-the-nation exploration of contemporary America, is ambitious, intelligent and deeply perceptive. (...) What central flaw in contemporary America does Netherland expose ? Not seeing, not wanting to see, still less to understand; making a virtue of simplistic myths of nationalism; narrowness masquerading as clarity; a loss of moral authority, a failure of hope. Whether a huge six or a home run -- whatever the metaphor of your choice -- Netherland comes right out of the middle of the bat." - Ed Smith, The Times

  • "O'Neill is a serious, honest, resolutely unflashy writer. Ramkisoon is a memorable creation, New York a vivid presence, and there is no doubting the book's integrity. But for this middle-aged cricketer, Hans's struggles were too familiar. (...) The book, similarly, has long stretches of placid defence, and only occasionally flashing boudaries. In this era of Twenty 20, the crowd may become a little restless." - Stephen Moss, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Through the voices of his characters, O'Neill articulates the problem of a narrative self. Is there really a unified self that moves through time or are we fragmented beings yoked together by a story we tell ourselves ? (...) The rendering of the narrator's domestic problems and their happy resolution is far less compelling than the intensely observed descriptions of the "nether regions" of the boroughs and the cricket played in them by immigrants." - Siri Hustvedt, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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Notes about the Reviews
and the Book's Reception

       The American critics leapt on this, and have been heaping praise on it, but the British critics haven't been nearly as fast in taking on the book (i.e. it didn't attract much attention pre- and upon publication) -- and now the first major notice (in the Times Literary Supplement) is nowhere near as enthusiastic.

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Netherland: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Irish literature
  • See Index of Contemporary American fiction

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About the Author:

       Joseph O'Neill was born in Ireland in 1964. Raised in the Hague, he currently lives in New York.

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© 2008-2022 the complete review

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