Netherland, By Joseph O'Neill

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The Independent Culture

Overpraised on its arrival, Joseph O'Neill's elegiac and engaging novel of the quest for home and roots then suffered a backlash that saw it branded as a slick epitome of conventional "literary fiction". Forget the quarrels, and enjoy a smoothly satisfying ride.

Through the unlikely motif of a cricket team in post-9/11 New York, the displaced Dutch banker Hans draws us into his circle of cosmopolitan friends as he remembers the Trinidadian Chuck and his quixotic ambitions for cricket in the US. The companions' affluence fails to assuage their nagging sense of dislocation from surroundings, spouses – even selves.

Silky, lyrical, vividly alert to the multinational melange of today's New York, Hans's narration – with its detours to London and The Hague – reflects on a question that could hardly be timelier. Who is an American, and can this nation of nations ever stand alone again?