The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: September 24, 2019
“’Do you think it’s possible to ever see the past as it actually was?’ I asked my sister. We were sitting in her car, parked in front of the Dutch House in the broad daylight of early summer.”
Danny Conroy grows up in the Dutch House, a lavish mansion. Though his father is distant and his mother is absent, Danny has his beloved sister Maeve: Maeve, with her wall of black hair, her wit, her brilliance. Life is coherent, played out under the watchful eyes of the house’s former owners in the frames of their oil paintings.
Then one day their father brings Andrea home. Though they cannot know it, her arrival to the Dutch House sows the seed of the defining loss of Danny and Maeve’s lives. The siblings are drawn back time and again to the place they can never enter, knocking in vain on the locked door of the past. For behind the mystery of their own exile is that of their mother’s: an absence more powerful than any presence they have known.
Told with Ann Patchett’s inimitable blend of humour, rage and heartbreak, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale and story of a paradise lost; of the powerful bonds of place and time that magnetize and repel us for our whole lives.
The Dutch House is a story told through Danny Conroy’s perspective, yet it features the pain of two individuals throughout the decades. The setting begins in a small town in Pennsylvania, as The Dutch House is the only life Danny’s ever known. Danny and his sister Maeve are removed from their home by their stepmother shortly after Danny’s 15th birthday. Although the siblings make attempts to move forward in their lives, they’re always drawn back to their childhood home, constantly reminising on a carefree life interrupted. This frequent pull to the past throws many complications in their personal relationships.
The timelines in The Dutch House constantly jump around, yet this nicely sets up the stage in describing the meager beginnings of Danny’s parents living in New York City. The book nicely shows the progression of a life rich in luxury, only to lose it through mistrust. Through the memories of his sister and lost family friends, Danny slowly pieces his parent’s life together in a complicated puzzle.
This story also highlights Maeve’s difficulties as she lives with Type 1 Diabetes. Living with T1D myself, I could completely identify with Maeve’s feelings of frustration as she manages her blood sugar. It truly is a daily balancing act!
If you love Historical Fiction stories centered around complex sibling bonds, then you will really love The Dutch House!
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