The Dutch Houseby Published 24 Sep 2019
|The Dutch House.pdf|
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 unshakable 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.
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. Filled with suspense, you may read it quickly to find out what happens, but what happens to Danny and Maeve will stay with you for a very long time.
The Dutch House Reviews
A HUGE thanx to Netgalley and HarperCollins for a review copy of this book, in exchange for this honest review.
I've only read two other Patchett books, but she has already become a favorite author, and I was very excited to be granted this ARC months prior to its publication in late Sept., since her last novel, Commonwealth, made it into my top 5 reads for 2016 - and I am fairly confident this one will do likewise for 2019.
The storyline follows somewhat similar ground as that previous book, being, more or less, an intricate family saga covering decades of the ins and outs of the Conroy family, and in particular, how the titular family manse outside Philadelphia impacts and impedes various relationships. The focus is primarily on a pair of siblings, with younger brother Danny doing the narrating, and once again Patchett does not follow a linear chronology, but weaves the stories back and forwards from the late 40's to the early 2000's. I sometimes had trouble following this in her previous book, since there was a plethora of characters to keep straight, but this is an easier go, since there are really only about a dozen characters in total. Although Patchett's prose is not fussy or overtly calls attention to itself, it always flows beautifully and is a pleasure to luxuriate in. Just the kind of lovely, leisurely read one wants/needs for the beginning of summer. I hope it is a tremendous success for her.
For no reason, I’ve never read Patchett and I’ve been missing out. This is an intelligent novel that is almost a fable including an evil stepmonster but it’s the house that looms large. A house that represents success, greed, loss, sadness and, ultimately, forgiveness. A wife is desperately unhappy, close siblings are eventually ousted and many lives are deeply affected by the house and what it means to each character. Patchett has a deft touch and now I’ll have the pleasure of reading her other work.
The Dutch House is a story of siblings, Danny and Maeve Conroy, their obsessive connection with the iconic family house they lived in as young children and how their lives unfolded over the years. The story is narrated by Danny over multiple non-linear time periods. The various time jumps and reflections back to important events felt like a jigsaw puzzle being built, where there is the uncertainty of the next piece but once it is placed, the complete picture becomes clearer and clearer. This is a wonderful skill Ann Patchett possesses and you never feel lost or confused as she manages the time transitions so deftly.
The other major hallmark of Ann Patchett is her development of amazing characters and relationships. Maeve is Danny’s older sister of 7 years, she is very intelligent, a diabetic, caring to the extreme for her brother, and a character that captivates. Danny is much more emotionally reserved and his development into adulthood is interesting to watch. While he takes advantage of top-class education in medicine he can’t shake his love for his father’s business in real estate. Their mother is a memory, having left them when they were young and the story starts with their father bringing Andrea home to visit. Andrea eventually becomes his wife, their new mother and the force that shapes the future relationships and living conditions.
“Mothers were the measure of safety, which meant that I was safer than Maeve. After our mother left, Maeve took up the job on my behalf but no one did the same for her.”It’s not too long before Andrea's own two daughters become her sole focus and ambition, and the existing family and staff are unwelcome reminders of a past she wasn’t part of. Andrea is an intriguing character, dispassionate, harsh, and greedy, and heir to the Dutch House mansion. Early in the marriage “It also seemed pretty clear he had married the wrong woman. If we all kept to our own corners it was easier for everyone.”
After only a few years of marriage, their father dies and leaves the house and business to Andrea who repays his memory by putting both Maeve and Danny out, to never set foot in their home again. This starts an obsessive periodic pilgrimage for Danny and Maeve where they return to the street to sit in a car parked across from the Dutch House and gaze at it recalling memories and wondering how life would have panned out – if only. The emotional baggage they carry together drives them forward but also restricts their successes and paths taken. The psychological burden of seeking happiness and fulfilment, while tied to past commitments and motivations is cleverly layered throughout the story.
I didn’t feel any great pace in the novel and at times wished it would move along in a more compelling rate. The house, while a connecting point, didn’t really have any character and increasingly the story is told away from it. It may be suggested that the house is the central aspect of the story but I would disagree feeling it more appropriate to consider the deep, caring, loving and supportive relationship between a brother and sister growing up with only each other to depend on and if that connection in itself had a restricting effect on how their lives developed.
I would recommend this book and I’d like to thank Bloomsbury Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an early ARC copy in return for an honest review.
This was a great book with Ann Patchett's signature writing. She's the queen of family sagas and this is no different.
'The Dutch House' refers to a mansion Meave and Danny live with their parents. We go through the lives of these siblings from their childhood to quite late in their lives. Their mother leaves suddenly without a word one day when they were children, and they never knew why. We go through the next phase of their lives after this event till they are old basically.
If you haven't read Ann Patchett before, you need to know that her books are very much character driven, not plot driven. We go through the life span of a family and witness their lives. In this book, the focus was the 2 siblings and their tight relationship. Meave and Danny were a delight to follow. I even envied their unshaken closeness and love for each other as an only child :) They go through a lot together and their support for each other helps them achieve in life. Of course there are lots of other characters, but they are revolving around this brother & sister.
I love Patchett's writing. It's very slow, but very immersive. Before you know it, you're drawn to these characters and want to know what's going on in their simple lives. I . was thinking of the book when I wasn't reading it, and wanted to return to it for sure.
I gave this book 4 stars because I think the mystery around the mother who left was cast aside for a very long time in the story, and it would be a bit better if she was included a little earlier.
But, in general, for people who love slow, character driven stories that goes on for a lifetime, Ann Patchett is the address :)
And, the book cover is exquisite. Not only it's beautiful. but it's very related to the book, so it makes it extra special.
Sometimes in a novel, a place is such a strong and integral part of the story that it deserves as much attention as if it were a character. The house in this novel exerts so much influence over the lives of the characters, sometimes more so than the other people in their lives. The house, with its big windows and ornate design is a symbol of success for Cyril Conroy, the self made real estate developer. To his wife Elna, it is everything that is wrong with the world, when so many others have nothing. To their children, Maeve and Danny, it is where they live. As adults, it’s much more complex; it represents everything they lost. To Conroy’s second wife Andrea, it’s a possession she has to have. Narrated by Danny, the story moves back and forth from their childhood over decades, a family saga of sorts, but the Conroy family for most of the novel is just the two of them, Danny and Maeve.
This is in so many ways about the past, the past they can’t let go of, the past that shapes who they become as adults. “Do you think it’s possible to ever see the past as it actually was?” Danny asks his sister Maeve. “ I see the past as it actually was,” Maeve said. Danny responds “ But we overlay the present onto the past. We look back through the lens of what we know, so we’re not seeing it as the people we were, we’re seeing it as the people we are, and that means the past has been radically altered.” ** It’s also about sibling love and sacrifice as the brilliant Maeve gives up so much of her life to care for Danny, to make sure he is okay. I was so emotionally connected to them and I loved their relationship. It was at times heartbreaking to see how deep seated these wounds of the past are for both of them .
The plot, which captured me from the beginning is one the reader should discover for themselves, so no spoilers here. The bottom line is that I loved pretty much everything about the book - the writing, the characters, the story. I found it nearly perfect and it is 4.5 stars because of something in the end that I found hard to reconcile. I keep a list of favorite writers and Ann Patchett has been on that list for quite a while now. I’ve read every novel she’s published. Her characters always feel fully developed and making an emotional connection is easy because she allows us to know them. Definitely recommended!
I read this with Diane and Esil as one of our ongoing buddy reads and as always appreciate their thoughts.
**Quotes are from the advanced copy.
I received an advanced copy of this book from HarperCollins through Edelweiss.