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The Dutch House

by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett X
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2019, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2021, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
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Cloggie Downunder

What a wonderful read!!
The Dutch House is the seventh novel by NYT best-selling American author, Ann Patchett. It had been Danny’s childhood home. Cyril Conroy had bought the incredible Dutch House, there in small-town Pennsylvania, in 1946 for his young family: his wife Elna, and five-year-old Maeve. It was just as the last Van Hoebeek, the original owners, had left it: furnishings, fittings, even clothing. Danny was born a few years later, and lived there until his step-mother threw him out at fifteen.

Danny’s mom had left when he was three; he was eight when Andrea Smith first came on the scene, but he and Maeve dismissed any idea of permanence. Andrea persisted, though; Andrea was fascinated with every detail of The Dutch House and Van Hoebeek family, who had made their fortune in packaged cigarettes.

Had Maeve and Danny paid more attention, they might have seen the signs, they might have predicted, but not prevented, it: just three years after she had first stood in front of the Van Hoebeek portraits in the drawing room, Andrea married Cyril, and took up residence in The Dutch House with her daughters. No longer were they the comfortable Conroy trio, lovingly cared for by Sandy and Jocelyn.

Danny had counted on following his canny father into real estate and construction; instead, Maeve insisted he study medicine at Columbia: their father’s trust, grudgingly dispensed by Andrea, was covering the not-inconsiderable cost. And on visits home, the siblings would park on Van Hoebeek Street, regard The Dutch House, and fume over their stolen inheritance, their self-made father’s fortune.

Maeve, aware Cyril’s humble beginnings, was the most resentful; Danny had “never been in the position of getting my head around what I’d been given. I only understood what I’d lost.” Not until a career had been gained and discarded, and a marriage and children made, some twenty-seven years after they had been ejected from The Dutch House, did Maeve and Danny finally acknowledge what their obsession had done to them: “We had made a fetish out of our misfortune, fallen in love with it. I was sickened to realize we’d kept it going for so long”

While Danny’s wife seems resentful of his close relationship with his sister, it is not until a certain, somewhat familiar old woman turns up at Maeve’s hospital bed that he realises: “I had a mother who left when I was a child. I didn’t miss her. Maeve was there, with her red coat and her black hair, standing at the bottom of the stairs, the white marble floor with the little black squares, the snow coming down in glittering sheets in the windows behind her, the windows as wide as a movie screen… ‘Danny!’ she would call up to me. ‘Breakfast. Move yourself.’”

This is very much a character-driven story, and it clearly demonstrates Patchett’s literary skill: her characters are interesting and allowed to grow and develop, to display insight and utter wise words. The bond between the siblings is so well portrayed, it’s impossible not to feel for them. Like Anne Tyler, Patchett manages to make the lives of fairly ordinary people doing fairly ordinary things worth reading about.

Patchett’s prose is wonderful: “The madder Maeve got, the more thoughtful she became. In this way she reminded me of our father – every word she spoke came individually wrapped” and “Her wrist looked like ten pencils bundles together”. And that striking cover? It neatly ties the whole thing together, beginning and end. What a wonderful read!!
Cindy Shotnik

Bonds Not Forgotten
I read this book in it’s entirety and then listened to the audiobook by Tom Hanks, which made it even more endearing. Yes, this is a story that will stay with me for some time and I do hope it’s made into an exclusive movie to be shared on Netflix or Prime.
Challis

OMIGOODNESS!! This is perfect perfection!
I was so sad to reach the end of this book …. sniff, sniff...I always feel like crying a little when this book ends. Especially, this one.
I always want great reads to go on forever, but this one in particular is a story and it's telling that I will miss. Ann Patchett was telling me a wonderful, complex, deeply satisfying story. When it ended, it was like I stopped at a traffic light and Ann Patchett got out of the book and it just stopped, this wonderful story and I wanted to keep reading and beg Ann to keep writing this wonderful story; surely there must be more to the story that she just forgot to write? The story was nicely wrapped up, all the loose ends were tied, and the tale was deeply satisfying in a way many books just can't achieve.
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