This book, The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, is hard to sum up. I have read one of Ann’s previous books – Commonwealth – which was gripping and a real relationship roller-coaster. However this book centres around the Dutch House and the people who had lived there.
I have to admit that my purchase of this book was for shallow reasons. I was scrolling through Audible and I saw this book was highly recommended and was being read by Tom Hanks. I surmised that if a well-sought out actor of his calibre was reading it it must be because he loved the book. I have no basis for this assumption however it was a great choice of reader.
The story of the Dutch House is hypnotic and Tom Hanks voice makes it even more so.
Danny Conroy grows up in the Dutch House, a lavish mansion. Though his father is distant and his mother is absent, Danny has his beloved sister Maeve: Maeve, with her wall of black hair, her wit, her brilliance. The siblings grow and change as life plays out under the watchful eyes of the house’s former owners, in the frames of their oil paintings.
Then one day their father brings Andrea home. Though they cannot know it, her arrival to the Dutch House sows the seed of the defining loss of Danny and Maeve’s lives.
It is all about life, love and loss. It is written with such sensitivity and elegance. The characters are flawed and the author delivers them into your senses so that you feel you have known them all of your life. It is a story of obsession – obsession of a house. The house comes alive through each of the characters that lived there.
The ending is beautifully structured, the Dutch House itself brings the family full circle: clarity & understanding of childhood memories enable them to move forward.
I loved this book for its slow pace and deep understanding and portrayal of people. Houses can define us in so many ways and this book illustrates this so beautifully – all the elements combine so well.
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