Genre: Fiction

Notes: Book 3/50 for the year.  Reads like nonfiction, which can either be a good or bad thing depending on how you feel about nonfiction.

Review: Almost every review that I read about this book categorized it either has the quintessential American Dream novel or a post 9/11 novel.  Or a cricket novel.  I disagree with all of those descriptions.

Netherland, at its heart, is about a marriage.  A marriage that has crazy ups and downs, a transatlantic marriage, and a marriage that had everything working against it.  It felt like a realistic love story for the 21st century with all of the nebulous and changing priorities of real relationships.  There is nothing fairy-tale like about this romance and there is no knight in shining armor to save the day.

However, I will concede that Netherland does reference the American Dream.  Maybe not with the main character, but definitely with the crazy Trinidadian Chuck Ramkissoon.  Chuck takes the American Dream to the extreme – he runs his own gambling circle, sells Kosher sushi in a Jewish neighborhood even though he knows nothing about being Kosher, and had grandiose dreams about starting a cricket revolution in NYC.  It is interesting to hear about America from a non-native (Hans as the narrator as well as the Irish-born O’Neill).  They call America “ideologically diseased” and worry about the path Americans seem hell-bent on forging.

This novel had anger and wit and embodies the craziness of NYC’s immigrant melting pot.  As grant as the novel sounds on paper and in prestigious reviews like this one from the New York Times, Netherland just isn’t staying with me.  It doesn’t pack that emotional punch I expected and doesn’t make me see the world any differently.  Solid read, but not one I would see myself recommending to a friend on a whim.

Bottom Line: Take the reviews (and this one, too) with a grain of salt.  I imagine this is a book that means something different to each reader.

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