While I am on my self-imposed vacay, I picked a novel that's been on my reading list for almost a decade. President Obama recommended it early in his first term. That's how long this book has been waiting for me. He said he needed a break in the evenings from reading security briefs. I needed a break from reading about
First I want to say that it is not unusual for me to read so-called "men's novels" any less than "women's novels." I like both. The one sin I'd have to confess is I always skip over long, indeed interminable passages on sports that male novelists are prone to writing. That's okay, I wouldn't want the dear boys to change a thing. But I never dreamed I could love a novel about cricket; I barely know what it is. Not just any cricket, either, but post-colonial, mainly Caribbean cricket, as played by island immigrants in the five boroughs of New York and near counties. Fascinating, who knew?
Hans van den Broek, the main character and narrative voice, is a Dutch oil analyst in international banking. His British attorney wife and young son have returned to London, having witnessed 9/11 up close from their loft in Tribeca; the wife wanting none of it and none of GWB. So Hans shuttles back and forth to see them, but mainly is living alone in the Chelsea Hotel, being all lonely, if rich enough to pay $6000 a month rent, and sorting through the mental images of his life. Except for business, he really has nothing else to do.
Until he is befriended by Chuck Ramkissoon, from Trinidad, who has big plans to establish a cricket grounds on a disused air field in Brooklyn and make his fortune from pay per view all over the globe, thereby bringing world peace.
In the hands of a lesser writer, this probably would have been one of the rare books I wouldn't finish. I mean, cricket? But the writing is stunningly beautiful, like a dreamscape, the characters are people we'd all love to know, and the city is grand, even with the "great emptiness" downtown. I'm a big fan of the sprawling New York novel. I tell you, this is one of the best I have ever read.
by Joseph O’Neill.
I dug up the NYT Book Review
from 2008, if anyone wants to read it.
Democracy is a garden that has to be tended. -Barack Obama