Ann Patchett’s novels (Bel Canto, The Patron Saint of Liars) and nonfiction (Truth & Beauty, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage) are eagerly awaited by her many fans. Those fans weren’t disappointed with The Dutch House, Patchett’s 2019 and most recent release.
Patchett, who owns Parnassus Books in Nashville, creates a host of memorable characters including siblings Maeve and Danny Conroy. Their father, Cyril, bought the Dutch House in the wealthy suburbs of Philadelphia after WWII and moved his wife and two children into the massive structure filled with the belongings of the VanHoebeek family who had built it.
Maeve and Danny’s mother had left, for reasons left unclear but tied in part to guilt about the Dutch House, paving the way for Andrea and her two children to move in. Not long after Andrea marries Cyril, Maeve and Danny are forced out of their childhood home. The novel chronicles their lives from late childhood to adulthood, lives tied to and deeply hurt by the Dutch House and its inhabitants.
Patchett’s smooth prose reveals the effects of a mother’s loss, a stepmother’s anger and fear, and two siblings unable to move beyond the past and their dependence on each other. It’s not often an inanimate object becomes a main character, but Patchett does it well here, turning the Dutch House into a looming personality that controls all who come in contact with it.
Patchett’s many fans will love this book, and fans of family dramas a la Jane Smiley will enjoy it as well. The house and Danny and Maeve will stick with you for a long time. (Harper)
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