The Dutch House
By Ann Patchett
Harper, 9780062963673, September 2019, 352pp.
The Short of It:
A dark fairy tale of sorts told in a very modern way. Beautifully written and filled with flawed characters.
The Rest of It:
When Cyril buys a beautiful house for his wife, Elna, he believes it to be the most romantic gesture a man can make towards his wife, but what The Dutch House represents to Elna, is a lifestyle that she can never rise to, one of wealth and opulence. Coming from a convent, her needs are few, or so it seems but after years of living in the house and trying to raise her daughter Maeve and her son Danny, she abandons them for India to work with the poor.
This abandonment is devastating to Maeve and Danny but what ends up being even more devastating is their new stepmother, Andrea. Suddenly, Maeve and Danny are forced to rely on one another and the insular world they build to protect themselves from reality, affects them down the line and impacts their relationships with others.
This was not a perfect book. Some things could have been explored more fully but as I was reading it, I felt the presence of that house. This is an excellent example of a house portrayed as a character in the story. It’s pulsing with life even when lives are falling apart. It’s immune to decay, which isn’t the case for the families who have lived inside it. To some, it’s glittering and beautiful and grand and to others, it’s imposing and intimidating and a reminder of what could never be. I LOVED this aspect of the story. So much conflict in these characters and so much to ponder.
I only keep books which I have loved or ones which I think could be re-read and loved again over and over and The Dutch House falls into that category. I highly recommend it.
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13 thoughts on “Review: The Dutch House”
Great post 😁
Those are also my criteria for keeping books, Ti. And I also kept The Dutch House.
I have a book loft in my house and space is limited but I’ve only wanted to keep, ever, the stories that really stayed with me so right now the loft is good with a little room to spare. Most of the books I enjoy I give away unless they hit me in that sweet spot that some books do.
Sounds like Ann Patchett has done it again. For some reason this one hasn’t appealed to me, but I think I’m going to have to add it to my TBR list.
When it first came out I made a note to read it at some point but didn’t run out to find a copy. BUT, I am sorry I waited. My book club was mixed on it mostly because they could not understand the motives of one character but I kind of could although I didn’t approve of her actions.
It’s been a long time since I read my last Ann Patchett book. I’ve loved her earlier ones that I read, not so much the later ones. Mostly I was getting tired of her style, I guess. But it’s been some time now, so I’d like to try one of hers now.
I remember one Patchett book I read that I could not stand, Run. Because of that book, I skipped all her others but then I read Commonwealth and loved it to pieces. So when The Dutch House came around, I picked it up and loved it as well. It reminded me so much of The Goldfinch but I’ve not heard anyone else say that. Reminded me in tone… not story, obviously. But there is that longing for the mother that they both share.
Your review makes me want to read this!
If you enjoy “house as a character” type of novels, you will love it. I appreciate that aspect of the story the most because the family is very dysfunctional and their story is heartbreaking in many ways.
I actually liked the beginning the best … with the two kids & father growing up in the big house … like you … I liked the house parts the best …. but after they get kicked out and move away from the house … I felt I didn’t like the story as much … and didn’t like the two mothers much. Danny’s narration is good in parts … and other parts spin on …
I think the way you and I both felt about the beginning is no coincidence. I think the author may have written it that way so the reader would also feel the loss of the house. I didn’t like the moms but understood Elna more than Andrea. I am still thinking about that book.
I have hit or miss luck with this author, but this sounds like a hit for me.
I read this in print but I heard that the audio book is fabulous and read by Tom Hanks.