The Dutch House

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett review | The Champagne Supernova

From the New York Times bestselling author of Commonwealth and State of Wonder, is Ann Patchett’s story that illustrates the bond between two siblings, the house of their childhood, and a haunting past that will not let them go. The Dutch House is the story of a paradise lost, a tour de force that digs 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 WWII, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin a real estate empire, propelling his family from rags to riches. His endeavor is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Meant to surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.

The narrator is Cyril’s son Danny (performed by Tom Hanks if you’re listening on Audible), as he and his older sister, Maeve, are exiled from their childhood home 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 each other. It is this bond between them that saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a story about two people who cannot overcome their past. It includes a mother who disappeared, a father who remarried a woman with two daughters, and the loss of the father who drops dead from a heart attack. Think Cinderella, where the stepmother shows her true colors before exiling Maeve to a room on the third floor and, eventually, kicking Danny out of the house while he is in high school.

Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives they return to the 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 protective sister is finally tested.

So here is the cold, hard truth. I did not love this book. It was like “The Never Ending Story” with no real character development and no climax, just a long narrative about these siblings’ dysfunctional lives. There was nothing special.

I didn’t find either of the two main characters to be particularly likeable and Patchett made it hard to empathize with them because she never let us into their heads. It was not a page turner- just a book I wanted to finish for the sake of finishing and checking it off my mental list.

I recently read “Commonwealth” by the same author and she did the same exact thing. Just a book 100 pages too long about a dysfunctional family and no plot or climax. She is a gifted writer, no doubt, but a poor storyteller.

This book is available at all major retailers, to include Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.

Did you read it? What did you think?


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