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The Dutch House: A Novel by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House: A Novel (edition 2019)

by Ann Patchett (Author)

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6504523,205 (4.29)50
A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick! From the New York Times bestselling author of Commonwealth and State of Wonder, comes Ann Patchett's 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. 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. 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.… (more)
Title:The Dutch House: A Novel
Authors:Ann Patchett (Author)
Info:Harper (2019), Edition: 1st, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Dutch House by Ann Patchett


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An enterprising young property mogul, Cyril Conroy, purchases a mansion, commonly referred to as “the Dutch house”, in Philadelphia as a surprise for his young wife. She is not happy about it. Or she’s not happy about something else. She’s not happy, certainly, and eventually she leaves him and their two children, Maeve and Danny, to go find herself in India or elsewhere. (The children believe she is dead.) Eventually Cyril remarries, but his new wife, Andrea, is a horror. And when Cyril dies within a few years, Andrea manages to evict both Maeve, who by this time was in college, and the still teenage Danny. They are left with nothing but their hatred of their stepmother. That, and an education trust for Danny to continue his schooling. It’s positively Dickensian.

The story is told from Danny’s point of view. Yet as a character, Danny never fully comes to life. Indeed he seems almost a cipher. It is his sister, Maeve, who is the interesting one. But despite Danny and Maeve’s closeness, we learn very little about her. She’s smart at math. And she has a near-obsessive hatred of Andrea. Time passes, life events occur, and then in the third act someone reappears who has the potential to tie up all the loose threads and bring this novel to a restful conclusion. Sigh.

This might have been a novel of place, about a specific house located in a specific wealthy suburb of Philadelphia. But in fact the house is mostly just a placeholder. We don’t ever get a clear picture of it and no one seems to have a close emotional tie to it other than the grasping interloper Andrea. It also isn’t a novel of character. Danny is so underwritten that he barely registers as gendered. Patchett has to remind us on numerous occasions that he is tall because he is so little in our imaginations. Maeve is brilliant and incisive and in some ways the book is really about her, but we know very little about her other than that she is good at math (and later accounting) and once had a promising future. It’s as though the novel never fully takes shape or decides what it wants to be. The result is that although there are some well-written set pieces, the whole is a lumpen mass, like cold porridge.

That sounds harsher than I intend. I did really like Maeve and later, Danny’s daughter, May. I rather with the story had been told instead from Maeve’s point of view. I would have liked to see the world as she did, if only for a while. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Dec 13, 2019 |
Ann Patchett is one of my favorite authors. This is an interesting book. One reviewer called it "fairy tale" and it does have that aspect. The story surrounds a brother and sister(Danny and Maeve Conroy) and covers 1950-1995. It takes place in Philadelphia and New York. It is told in the ist person by Danny and we don't get a lot of depth to his narration. I do have trouble with 1st person narratives unless the character has depth and is able to express enough about the other characters. Danny is okay but the real star is Maeve. The two of them come from a family where the father is a wealthy real estate developer who purchased " The Dutch House" along with everything in it at an estate sale. He did this without telling his wife. She ultimately leaves him and the children to go off to India. Danny is only 3 and so we don't a great insight into that story. Without giving away too much, the plot consists of an evil stepmother, loving servants, and mostly a devoted brother and sister. The relationship is the backdrop for the entire story. Patchett gives Danny and Maeve a little too much in terms of good attributes so the characters come off a little one dimensional. All in all it was a good read. Not as good as her earlier novels but still worth the time. If you never read Patchett you should check her out(Bel Canto etc.) ( )
  nivramkoorb | Dec 12, 2019 |
The Dutch House - Patchett
Audio performance by Tom Hanks
5 stars

“Our childhood was a fire. There had been four children in the house and only two of them had gotten out.”

Danny Conroy is telling the story of a family. It’s about his parents, his father and his absent mother. It’s about his stepmother and her two daughters. Eventually, he adds his wife and his own children to the continuing saga. But, mostly this story is about his sister, Maeve. It’s also the story of the Dutch House, a lavish, incongruous mansion which is the centerpiece for decades of family drama.

There were times when I didn’t like any of the characters in this book. They all seemed so determined to create more loss and heartache. But, I couldn’t sustain my dislike or my frustration with their behavior. Patchett has a way of writing characters who are humanly flawed individuals. I cared about them. I kept hoping life would turn out well for them. I liked that the book didn’t end with a cliched happily ever after, but with a sense of a full life coming full circle.

I don’t think I need to say anything about the audio performance. It was Tom Hanks. It was perfect. ( )
  msjudy | Dec 2, 2019 |
Lovely story and characters ( )
  ibkennedy | Dec 2, 2019 |
It delights me no end that I got my copy of this book at Ann Patchett's bookstore in Nashville. ( )
  bookczuk | Nov 30, 2019 |
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This book is for Patrick Ryan
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The first time our father brought Andrea to the Dutch House, Sandy, our housekeeper, came to my sister's room and told us to come downstairs.
There are a few times in life when you leap up and the past that you'd been standing on falls away behind you, and the future you mean to land on is not yet in place, and for a moment you're suspended, knowing nothing and no one, not even yourself.
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