Sunday, September 27, 2009
AUTHOR: JOSEPH O'NEILL
Details: Reading Group Read
This is going to prove a difficult book to blog about. I wasn't sure what to make of the story while reading it, and now that I've finished in, I'm still not sure.
This is the story of Hans van den Broek who reflects on the time he spend alone in New York after his wife went back to England with their infant son, stating a need to spend time apart.
While on his own in a city still traumatized by the terror it has experienced, he joins a cricket team, made up from immigrants, like him, and thus returning to a sport he played during his childhood in The Hague, Holland. He becomes friends with a man with a dubious background and life, whose dream it is to bring cricket to America, Chuck Ramkissoon.
Years later, when Hans is back in London and reunited with his family, Chuck's body is found in a river in New York, with his hands tied behind his back. A discovery that leads to Hans reflecting on those solitary months he spend in New York, his friendship with Chuck and the clues that might have been there to predict his violent demise.
Hans' main obsession those is with the fact that people just seem to drift out of his life, without him being able to stop that or to understand why it's happening.
This book is basically the internal musings of a not really very interesting man, obsessed with a sport I have no interest in. There really isn't a whole lot happening in this book. In fact there are lots of words used to describe very little.
Which makes it all the more remarkable that I had no difficulty at all finishing this book. Of course I had to read all of it because I'm leading the Reading Group I'm reading it for, but that was not my driving force. The book is in fact, so well written that having to read it wasn't hard work at all. In fact, if there had been more action and less introspection, it would probably have been a perfect book for me. And of course for me there was the added bonus of parts of the book being set in Holland, with bits of Dutch being thrown in to the story. Not all the Dutch is explained or translated though, and I wonder how that works for people unfamiliar with the language.
As it is, the authors way with words is what saved this book for me. What this book hasn't done though is inspire me to go looking for other novels by O'Neill.