THE DUTCH HOUSE by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House is the latest novel from Ann Patchett, author of one of my all-time favorite books, Bel Canto, and others I’ve reviewed – Commonwealth, Run, State Of Wonder, Truth And Beauty. It is about two siblings – Danny and Maeve – who grow up in an odd but beautiful home outside Philadelphia called the Dutch House. Their mother left when they were young, and they lived with their aloof, inscrutable father and a cadre of household help who raised and took care of them. When their father married a younger woman, Andrea, and then died, they found themselves booted from the house and cut off from their father’s wealth. The Dutch House is about how their relationship survives into adulthood, and their lifelong obsession with the house and the wrongs committed by their stepmother.

I had been in a reading slump over the last month or so, thanks mostly to the World Series (Go Nats!), and after some false starts with other books, The Dutch House was the one that got me out of it. Ann Patchett is an expert storyteller, and I was immediately drawn in to these kids’ lives and their unfortunate circumstances. I thought the middle third of the book was the best – the part that covered Danny’s journey to adulthood and the evolution of his life separate from Maeve’s, despite their codependence.

Ultimately, The Dutch House is about forgiveness and acceptance. How do we forgive those who wrong us? How do we accept that people – especially parents – make decisions that we cannot understand? Sometimes that process can take a lifetime. I felt deep empathy for Danny and Maeve, even as they were turning inward or reinforcing patterns that only prolonged their hurting. While sometimes I wondered whether it was reasonable for them to be angry so many years later, to continue to drive to the house and sit outside, recounting the injustices done to them, in the end I could understand how those wounds from childhood were still raw decades later.

I liked The Dutch House quite a bit. It’s a juicy book to get caught up in, and I stayed up late reading it last night for the first time in a while. I am always impressed by the variety of Ann Patchett’s settings and plots, and how convincing I have found almost all of them. I highly recommend The Dutch House – great read.

7 Comments

  • November 12, 2019 - 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like you didn’t listen to Tom Hanks read it? I’m curious about how that is. In any case, I’m hoping to convince my book club to read this one. We seem to be bouncing back and forth between well-written depressing stories and overly light books. Maybe this would be a good middle ground…?

    • Sarah
      November 12, 2019 - 10:07 pm | Permalink

      I am listening to Tom Hanks read “The Dutch House” now, and he is a *marvelous* narrator of a wonderful story.

      Great review, Gayle. I am loving TDH.

  • gayle
    November 13, 2019 - 12:59 pm | Permalink

    No, I did it in print. Like Sarah said, the audio os supposed to be great. Not sure how you feel about actors horning in on your territory though… I think it would be a good book club pick.

  • Laura
    November 13, 2019 - 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I also loved this book and her storytelling. I enjoyed the final third best as Danny seemed to have some realizations about the choices he made that kept him stuck in the past and in the cycle of his relationship with his sister, some of which was just unhealthy. And I thought it was interesting how many of the choices both Maeve and Danny made were so reminiscent of their parents, yet they refused to see the similarities.

  • Julie
    November 14, 2019 - 11:07 pm | Permalink

    I am an avid reader and only just discovered audible. I’m loving having a book going in print, and a book going on Audible at the same time…but I am wondering how all of you decide which books to read in print and which to listen to?

    • gayle
      November 14, 2019 - 11:12 pm | Permalink

      Great question. For me, it’s a combination of mood – which book am I in the mood for next?, availability of audio (though with Scribd almost everything is available) and who the narrator is. Some books just seem more appealing to me on audio than others. And often I will alternate between reading and audio if I am really into a book.

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