MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Summary and book reviews of The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House

by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett X
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2019, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 5, 2021, 352 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Ann Patchett, the New York Times bestselling author of Commonwealth and State of Wonder, returns with her most powerful novel to date: a richly moving story that explores the indelible bond between two siblings, the house of their childhood, and a past that will not let them go.

"'Do you think it's possible to ever see the past as it actually was?' I asked my sister. We were sitting in her car, parked in front of the Dutch House in the broad daylight of early summer."

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.

The story is told by Cyril's son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakeable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they're together. Throughout their lives they return to the well-worn story of what they've lost with humor and rage. But when at last they're forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.

The Dutch House is the story of a paradise lost, a tour de force that digs deeply into questions of inheritance, love and forgiveness, of how we want to see ourselves and of who we really are. Filled with suspense, you may read it quickly to find out what happens, but what happens to Danny and Maeve will stay with you for a very long time.

Excerpt
The Dutch House

The first time Maeve and I ever parked on VanHoebeek Street (Van Who-bake, mispronounced as Van Ho-bik by everyone in Elkins Park) was the first time I'd come home from Choate for spring break. Spring was something of a misnomer that year since there was a foot of snow on the ground, an April Fool's Day joke to cap a bitter winter. True spring, I knew from my first half-semester at boarding school, was for the boys whose parents took them sailing in Bermuda.

"What are you doing?" I asked her when she stopped in front of the Buchsbaums' house, across the street from the Dutch House.

"I want to see something." Maeve leaned over and pushed in the cigarette lighter.

"Nothing to see here," I said to her. "Move along." I was in a crappy mood because of the weather and what I saw as the inequity between what I had and what I deserved, but still, I was glad to be back in Elkins Park, glad to be in my sister's car, the blue Oldsmobile wagon of our childhood that my ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What are the many and varied details of the Dutch House—rooms, stairways, architectural specifics, furniture, windows and doors, etc.? What mood or personality does each space or element possess? What is the complex, overall effect? What might Danny mean when he says, "the house was the story" or that it was "impossible"?
  2. What is the nature of the relationship between Maeve and Danny? What explains the longevity and power of their support and love for one another?
  3. What is Cyril Conroy like? How might specific behaviors, routines, and decisions of his have influenced Maeve and Danny? Why was he "always more comfortable with his tenants than he was the people in his office or...in his house"? What was it about buildings that he ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!
  • award image

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The varying descriptions of the house, inside and outside, before and after the siblings' exile, are atmospheric. It looms over everything that goes on, and it's easy to see why Danny and Maeve have remained so deeply affected by it. This is also the kind of novel you might put down many times after a certain line or two, thinking back to your own experiences and wondering how she could possibly know a piece of your life or your family so well...continued

Full Review Members Only (833 words).

(Reviewed by Rory L. Aronsky).

Media Reviews

New York Times
There are very few sharp edges in this novel beyond Andrea’s central villainy and I periodically found myself wishing for a narrative that was, if not searing, a little less smooth — though to be fair, the Conroys suffer grief and loss beyond the financial. That said, what I (occasionally) wished for isn’t what Patchett was trying to achieve. The heroes and heroines of fairy tales face mighty challenges but they almost always make it through in the end. In The Dutch House, all’s well that ends well — and that’s a pleasure.

NPR
Rare among Patchett's fiction, The Dutch House is written in the first person, from Danny's adult point of view. Because Danny is by design a clueless, tight-lipped character, it isn't clear that this was the right choice; an omniscient third person narration might have been a better way to get deeper inside him... The Dutch House goes unabashedly sentimental, but chances are, you won't want to put down this engrossing, warmhearted book even after you've read the last page.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
[Patchett] again proves herself a master of aging an ensemble cast of characters over many decades...Like the many-windowed mansion at its center, this richly furnished novel gives brilliantly clear views into the lives it contains.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Patchett's splendid novel is a thoughtful, compassionate exploration of obsession and forgiveness, what people acquire, keep, lose or give away, and what they leave behind.

Reader Reviews

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...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The Stories That Houses Can Hold

Exterior of Dyrham Park, the house used as a film location for Remains of the DayHaving moved 17 times in the wake of my late father being transferred at his job, I don't have a nostalgic connection to anywhere I've lived. The connection many people feel in their bones, heart and soul to a specific home is a mere curiosity to me—an interest in what people remember, how they seek to describe it. I live vicariously through those words, trying to imagine what it must feel like to have those emotionally immersive memories.

The Dutch House is not the first time I've sought this out in literature. The fictional landscape of language, in all its varied forms, offers up so many different houses and so many different lives lived in them, that it's fascinating to read about how some characters embrace where they have ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Ann Patchett

If you liked The Dutch House, try these:

  • Mrs. Everything jacket

    Mrs. Everything

    by Jennifer Weiner

    Published 2020

    About this book

    More books by this author

    A smart, thoughtful, and timely exploration of two sisters' lives from the 1950s to the present as they struggle to find their places - and be true to themselves - in a rapidly evolving world. Mrs. Everything is an ambitious, richly textured journey through history - and herstory - as these two sisters navigate a changing America over the course of...

  • Marguerite jacket

    Marguerite

    by Marina Kemp

    Published 2020

    About this book

    In this haunting novel, a young nurse forms an unlikely connection with the elderly man she cares for, and finds herself confronting the guilt she carries from her past.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Pew
    Pew
    by Catherine Lacey
    A quote often attributed to Leo Tolstoy states that "All great literature is one of two stories; a ...
  • Book Jacket: Waiting for an Echo
    Waiting for an Echo
    by Christine Montross
    Dr. Christine Montross had been a practicing psychiatrist for nearly a decade when she decided to ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Flight Portfolio
    by Julie Orringer
    At once a sweeping historical narrative, an insightful character study and a tender romance, Julie ...
  • Book Jacket: The Color of Air
    The Color of Air
    by Gail Tsukiyama
    Daniel was raised in Hilo, Hawaii by Japanese immigrant parents. Having traveled to the U.S. ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    He Started It
    by Samantha Downing

    A new thriller from the twisted mind behind the mega hit My Lovely Wife.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Hieroglyphics
    by Jill McCorkle

    A mesmerizing novel about piecing together the hieroglyphics of history and memory.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Last Flight
by Julie Clark

The story of two women and one agonizing decision that will change the trajectory of both of their lives.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Every Bone a Prayer

Every Bone a Prayer by Ashley Blooms

A beautifully honest exploration of healing and of hope.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

T Real M

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.