The Dutch House- Book Review

By: Ann Patchett

Why I chose to read this book…

I came across this book at multiple different bookstores and finally decided to pick it up. The book is very positively reviewed as well.

A little bit about the book…

The book centers around a large estate in Philadelphia nicknamed The Dutch House. The interior of the home is decorated with large painted portraits of past residents and covered with embellishments that are compared to the Palace of Versailles. The current inhabitants of The Dutch House are the Conroys. The book follows the brother and sister, Danny and Meave Conroy with Danny narrating their story.

Patchett chooses to divide The Dutch House into three parts.

Part one focuses on Danny and Meave’s childhood. Through their perspectives, readers get a glimpse into what it would have been like growing up in the Dutch House. It is clear that their father, Cyril, really loves this historic home, despite his family’s distaste for it. As years progress, Cyril moves on from his failed marriage with a woman named Andrea. When Andrea and her two daughters move into the home it becomes increasingly clear things in the Dutch House will be changing. Some catastrophic events follow for the Conroy family, and by the end of part one, the siblings have lost the Dutch House and need to rebuild their lives elsewhere.

Part two begins with Danny returning home from college for Thanksgiving. Home is now a small apartment that Maeve lives in. Patchett paints a clear picture of how the siblings live after leaving the Dutch House. Maeve has a steady job she likes, and Danny is studying in Medical School even though he doesn’t want to be a doctor. The siblings always feel an urge to go back and see the Dutch House and a couple times a year they choose to go see the house form a distance. Despite this, Danny’s life seems to move on from the house; he goes to school meets a woman, gets married and has children. In contrast, Meave’s life does not seem to change as the years pass. After a close encounter with Andrea, part two ends with the siblings vowing never to revisit the house.

Part three began with some trouble for Meave, which sent Danny into a whirlwind of emotions. This event also brings back an old family member that Danny isn’t ready to accept back into his life. Danny tries to figure out how to best deal with this returned family member as well as focus on being a good husband and father. The ending is quite moving and has a couple surprises.

The central theme of the book…

One of the most dominant messages of the book was the power of love. You see this in the relationships that are formed, kept and treasured among family and friends. The love that Maeve and Danny have for one another is a perfect example. We also see this with their love for their childhood nannies, for their father, and all the new characters throughout the book. The power of love is shown from the beginning of the book through to the end. The different relationships that are formed in the book are what interested me the most.

My thoughts on the book…

My overall thoughts are that it is a good story about the lives of two siblings and their broken family. Ann Patchett is a skilled writer and makes the characters of her book come to life. However, I did find the book a bit predictable, which didn’t allow for much excitement or intrigue. It also seemed that Patchett added a bit too many unnecessary details that made the book a bit too long.

Other books by the Author:
The Patron Saint of Liars
The Magician’s Assistant
Bel Canto
State of Wonder

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