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The Dutch House

by Ann Patchett

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,5162243,109 (4.08)281
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 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 unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.… (more)
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English (221)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (223)
Showing 1-5 of 221 (next | show all)
“We had made a fetish out of our misfortune, fallen in love with it.” ― Ann Patchett, The Dutch House

Quiet character-driven novel about siblings Maeve and Danny Conroy, whose mother left home when they were children. Set in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, their father is reserved, and their stepmother despises them. They go through rough times, experiencing the ups and downs of life over the course of fifty years. They rely heavily on each other. They constantly revisit their past, repeating destructive patterns, making it difficult to live a fulfilled life.

The story is told from Danny’s adult perspective. It explores the childhood trauma of abandonment, how memories get tangled over time, and how acting on a sense of obligation or duty can change a life. There is a subplot related to materialism. Some characters chase money or status, and these are contrasted against altruism and a desire to minister to the poor. The writing is elegant. The characters feel authentic. The house is a recurring image throughout the book.

I listened to the audio book, read by Tom Hanks. He is a fantastic reader. His phrasing patterns are unique, and it flows well. I am rapidly becoming a fan of Ann Patchett. This is the third of her novels I have read – the others are Bel Canto and State of Wonder. I very much enjoyed all three.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
I had to redo this review, because something about it kept nagging at me. What bothered me, and something my sister, Lita Happypants, said only added to this, is that this book should have been one that I hated.

I don't like books about privileged white people. This family that the author creates is a rich, white family who live in a three-story, richly-constructed, richly-furnished house, with two servants. The mother, for whom her husband bought the house, is never comfortable in the house, and takes to disappearing, without a word, for, at first, days at a time, and then, forever, without a word to her two young children. The older child, Maeve, stops eating, and develops diabetes, from this loss. The younger child, Danny, Kindles a hatred and resentment for her, con razon. The father, a real estate developer, is a cold, uninvolved, obstinate, indifferent father, who has few words and less love for his children. He cares about them so little, that he remarries a young, beautiful-on-the-outside, extremely-ugly-on-the-inside woman to replace their mother. This woman, Andrea, hates her stepchildren with a passion, and has two young daughters of her own. She moves Maeve out of the best bedroom in the house,one with an enclosed window-seat, and gives it to her older daughter Norma. Andrea wears the pants in the family, so the father does nothing. When Maeve moves out (she's already in college) because she no longer feels comfortable there, one afternoon she is ordered to come and get Danny (the father has keeled over with a heart attack at this point), and move him and his belongings out before dinner.

Now that the father's dead, his children figure they're okay for money; after all, their dad was loaded. Not a bit. Maeve consults the family lawyer and finds out that the PW father had allowed Andrea to put her name on EVERY SINGLE THING. Moreover, he died intestate. This means that even maeve's crappy little car belongs to Andrea. The only thing left that Andrea can't get her hands on, is an educational trust for Danny and Andrea's two girls.

Maeve decides that their only means of getting ANYTHING back from Andrea, is for Danny to attend medical school, the most expensive one she can find. So Danny becomes a doctor, though he will never put this expensive education into practice. He wants to be a real estate developer, like his father.

So here's the thing: I think this book sucked me in for the sheer revulsion towards these characters, and the desire to keep going so I could find out if the author is going to do the truly awful things to these characters that they so richly deserve.

A couple of quotes...

When their father dies, they go to see his body in the hospital. This part was so hard for me because the circumstances were very close to what happened with my own father.
P.112:
"they had kept our father in a small room off to the side of the emergency room so that we wouldn't have to go to the morgue. He was in a regular hospital bed, his tie and jacket gone, his blue shirt unbuttoned at the neck and stained with blood. His mouth was open in a way that made it clear to me his mouth could not be closed. HIs bare white feet were sticking out from the bottom of the sheet. I couldn't imagine where his shoes and socks had gone. I hadn't seen my father's feet in years, since whatever summer it was we had last gone to the lake. There was a terrible, bloodless cut on his forehead that had been cruelly taped together."

The younger child, Danny, holds onto the hate for his mother, well into his adulthood. Maeve, his sister, becomes impatient with him:
P.412:
" 'What kind of person leaves their kids?' I felt like I'd been holding those words in my mouth since the moment I walked into the waiting room of the coronary care unit and saw our mother there.
'men!' Maeve said, nearly shouting. 'men leave their children all the time and the world celebrates them for it. The Buddha left and Odysseus left and noone gave a shit about their sons. They set out on their Noble journeys to do whatever the hell they wanted to do and thousands of years later we're still singing about it. Our mother left and she came back and we're fine.' "

Years later, their mother wants to go back to visit the house. As they approach the front windows, Andrea sees Danny through the glass, and makes frantic motions to get outside. It's clear that her mind has gone.
P.426:
"clearly it had been her intention to ask who we were, but before she had the chance andrea shot out like a cat. In a second she had crossed the terrace and came straight to me, at me, as if she meant to go through my chest. The force with which she hit punched the air from my lungs. She buried her face into my shirt, her small arms locking around my waist. She was wailing, her narrow back straining against her grief." ( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
I’m not one for family sagas but this is so well written, I can not not like it.
With their father deceased and abandoned by their mother Maeve and her brother David seem to hold on to the family home as the keeper of their memories. The fact they’ve been kicked out of that home by their stepmother makes their obsession with it understandable.
A good story, told well and with a satisfying conclusion. ( )
  Carmenere | Oct 17, 2022 |
Tom Hanks seemed perfect for narrating this book. His voice made it easier to keep going when the going got slow, which it did off and on. While it won't win any awards for action and intrigue, like going to school, it does award the reader for being there and paying attention.

It was occasionally hard to follow because it suddenly skipped around in time, but not for long. Perhaps that was just a way to make us pay attention, by jolting us awake now and then.

Some of the lessons I learned were family is important so don't shut any of them out, and don't hold a grudge and try to get even with someone who you don't really even know.

Even though their mother abandoned them when they were young, I think she deserves forgiveness more than the father, who didn't really seem to care about his children very much. And the evil stepmother probably didn't deserve to be hated, especially to the point of abandoning her children as part of the family, or as friends. They were victims as much as anyone.

Personally, I liked the father least, but he tried to do what he thought was good. Unfortunately, the house seemed to have evil intent or something. It was too strong for its occupants, and perhaps their mother sensed it more than others. It certainly seemed to have a bad influence on many lives.

All in all, a very good book, but a little slow for me at this time, hence the 4 stars. ( )
  MartyFried | Oct 9, 2022 |
SPOILERS
The novel is narrated by Danny who is introduced as an eight-year-old boy. He lives in the Dutch House with his older sister, Maeve, and his father, Cyril. Two housekeepers attend to the family. The children’s mother has left the family to live in India, and the family has not heard from her since Danny was an infant.

When Danny is still a boy, his father marries Andrea, and she brings with her two daughters. Andrea is obsessed with the Dutch House. She is fairly pleasant to Danny and Maeve but not warm. Cyril dies when Danny is fifteen years old, and Andrea evicts him from the house shortly after the funeral. Danny must move in with Maeve. The two siblings learn that Andrea has inherited everything, including the house. The only thing Danny has is a trust fund for education that he shares with his step-sisters. Maeve was left with nothing.

Maeve comes up with a plan to drain the trust fund as much by sending Danny to the most expensive boarding school and then to the most prestigious university and medical school. Meanwhile Danny does not even want to be a doctor, but completes his schooling to appease Maeve.

The book is really about Maeve through Danny’s eyes and his desire to make her happy and proud. She is the only mother he knows. When their actual mother comes back into the picture in their adult years, Maeve is ecstatic while Danny is aloof. Danny cannot understand why Maeve loves her so much and even feels jealous of this mother.

It all comes full circle when Danny, Maeve, and their mother go to the Dutch House and knock on the door. They learn that Andrea is ill and has dementia. Their mother decides it is her penance to take care of Andrea and moves back into the house. Maeve feels betrayed by her mother and dies soon after. When Andrea dies, her daughter inherits the house but wants nothing to do with it. She sells it to Danny’s daughter.

I enjoyed how the first part of the novel oscillates between present time and his childhood as told in stories the siblings tell each other. Each of the three parts of the novel has its own tone that reflects Danny’s maturity. The author plays with the concept of memory and how each person remembers the same events differently and how an individual’s memory of an event changes over time.
  Carlie | Sep 7, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 221 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patchett, Annprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bilardello, RobinCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frappat, HélèneTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hanks, TomNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Metsch, FritzDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saterstrom, NoahCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
This book is for Patrick Ryan
First words
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.
Quotations
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.
Sandy and Jocelyn served champagne at the reception, wearing matching black uniforms with white collars and cuffs that Andrea had bought for the occasion. “We look like matrons at a women’s penitentiary,” Jocelyn said, holding up her wrists.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 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 unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

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Book description
Ann Patchett, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Commonwealth, delivers 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. 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.
Haiku summary
La mère part en Inde,
La belle-mère les jette dehors
Seule reste la maison
(Tiercelin)

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