Joseph O’Neill (Harper Perennial)

Hans van den Broek is having a bad time.

His wife has abandoned him in New York, a city still licking its wounds from the recent 9/11 attacks, and taken their young son back to London.

Living an aimless bachelor’s existence he is befriended by Chuck Ramkissoon, a shady, larger than life character who introduces Van den Broek to the world of New York cricket.

Here he finds solace in the game he first discovered growing up in Holland.

Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland evokes New York not as the glossy, shopping mecca of Sex And The City but a city of scrubby urban parks and outer boroughs populated almost entirely by Caribbean and south Asian immigrants.

It’s fairly plotless but in Van den Broek, a reserved oil-futures analyst, O’Neill has created a sympathetic if unlikely hero who can’t help but get under the reader’s skin.

A meditation on love, memory, emotional desolation and the American dream, Netherland is a quietly brilliant book which will linger in your mind long after the last page has been turned. Alison grinter