An absolute triumph.
The Dutch House is one of those titles that has been sitting on my TBR list since the day it was released. I loved Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, but when I feel in the mood to read I almost always read for a genre title; something fantasy or romance for the most part. Rarely do I get home from work and think, “ah yes, time to sit in bed and read an epic family drama that spans decades.” Thank god for book clubs, otherwise, I might never have gotten to read this piece of genius.
The Dutch House is a physical location and the central setting for most of this novel. Brother and sister, Danny and Maeve, grew up in The Dutch House, and Danny tells the reader all about the life they lived within the estate. While still young, the pair are kicked out of their home by their stepmother, which throws them from the opulence they lived under down to poverty levels. Maeve protects Danny for decades to come to the point where he is almost an unreliable narrator because he barely knows what’s going on around him, even as an adult. Decades later and he still doesn’t know the real names of the people who worked in the house, or the fact that they’re related. Danny is so removed from the trauma of growing up compared to Maeve, it drove me crazy as a reader despite enjoying it wholeheartedly.
Maeve is older when they’re removed from the home and thus it affects her far more. She has to deal with the “evil stepmother” (as there is a lot of fairy-tale insinuations in this book), deal with taking care of Danny, deal with school and trying to get a job and keep a roof over both of their heads. She is entirely consumed by bitterness, anger, and guilt while Danny is seemingly unaffected by so much while being in the same situations. This book does a great job at displaying different ways in which trauma is actualized in people, and their bond is the driving force that keeps you reading and wanting to see what the future holds.
I would also highly recommend trying the audiobook if you choose to read this, as the narrator is Tom Hanks. Aside from being a brilliant actor, he brings a lot to the reading of this book, changing up his voice just enough to distinguish between child and adult Danny and keeping you invested the entire time with the emotional resonance of his voice. It’s fantastic. I never would have read this if my book club hadn’t voted for it and I am so pleased that I did. It would be a home run for any book club discussion!
Title: The Dutch House
Author: Ann Patchett
Three Descriptors: Moving, Reflective, Sweeping
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