Sunday, January 24, 2010

Don't Bother Reading: Netherland

One of the two books I read this month in preparation for my January book club meeting was a book called Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill.  I didn't really enjoy it and can't recommend it.  It isn't that it was poorly written - in fact, there were many times I read a sentence over a second and third time, thinking that O'Neill had a lovely way of expressing things.  For example, when the narrator/protagonist talked about playing the game of cricket:  "I strained the summer through a strainer that allowed only the collection of cricket. Everything else ran away." (p.172)

From my perspective, however, the book focused on the wrong things. The main character, Hans, is living on a different continent than his wife and child for a period of time; in order to alleviate boredom and loneliness, and to fill his spare time, Hans re-engages in a childhood pastime (the game of cricket) and seeks out the company of another character, Chuck - who is a rather questionable and under-developed character, in my opinion.  So here's my question for the author: why would your audience be interested in something that your main character does out of boredom or to fill time?  It's boring for us, too.  And really, who wants to read that much about the game of cricket?

I thought that O'Neill could much more convincingly have worked out the relationship between Hans and his wife, Hans and his mother (isn't the mother/son relationship always fodder for interesting discussion?), or Hans and his young son...something (anything) other than cricket and Hans' boring friend, Chuck.

1 comment:

  1. man, you really analyze a book to the nth degree. I probably would've just said, "don't read it, it sucks", without providing any reasons... Of course, that post wouldn't have been very interesting ;)