Title: The Dutch House
Genre: Historical Fiction
Price: Amazon Kindle $14.99
Pages: Kindle Edition 352
Publication date: September 24, 2019
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
I finished reading The Dutch House yesterday. I will admit that I only started reading it because of the book club meeting at work coming up. Unlike most of reviews I was not attracted to the cover at all. I would probably picked it up at a bookstore but only because of the red color of the coat. Red is an attention getter and that would probably had been the extent of it. I would have put it back down and moved on to the next book on the shelf.
The first few pages were a struggle for me. The writing is poetic and at the same time manages to be down to earth but the topic was not something I was able to get into at all. Again, had it not been for the meeting at work I would probably not have read it and DNF’d it almost immediately. However, I am glad and thankful for that meeting which is scheduled for the 18th of this month. I am actually really happy I finished the book.
This is my first novel by Ann Patchett. I would love to say that it will not be my last but I am so afraid that the others will disappoint. Not sure why but that always makes me nervous. When I like a book so much I am always afraid to pick up another one for fear that it will disappoint.
The book follows a family in Philadelphia who lives in a very large, opulent home, The Dutch House. The Dutch House is as much a character in the story as each of the people. in the story. Danny, the young brother; Maeve, the older sister; Cyril, the father; and Elna, the mother. There are also three maids/house keepers, Fluffly (her real name is Fiona); INSERT THE OTHER NAMES. Prior to buying the house the family lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn and I got the sense that they moved prior to Danny being born. The mother never got used to the house and, in fact, always hated it and spent a lot of time away from home. The children, Danny and Meave, were never told why. The father was emotionally distant to the children and the mother, the children were told, moved to Indian and left them behind. Meave and Danny were raised by the housekeepers/nannies at different periods of their lives.
The book starts with introducing the reader to Andrea. Andrea it appears always wanted to get inside the house. She is the father’s girlfriend whom the father later marries. Andrea has two daughters Bright and Norma. The tension between the new wife and the children was palpable from the start and the reader is lead to believe that it’s all because Meave and Danny feel as if she’s replacing their mother. The father seemed to just give in to all of Andrea’s whims, and I, as the reader couldn’t help but feel that he just did not do well with conflict and preferred to just let her take the lead. I never felt as if he didn’t care.
What I Liked
The writing. The writing has got to be the one thing in the book that will stay with me for a long time. I am normally very much involved in the plot of any book. I enjoy the ups and downs and most of the time if the plot doesn’t grab me I’m most likely not going to enjoy the book. I think this was the reason I had such a hard time at start of the book.
There is no plot….. for more than half of the book I had no idea where we were going. However, the writing was so perfect that I didn’t care. For the first time I allowed myself to become immersed in a story even though I had no clue where it was taking me. What I was supposed to find at the end. I found myself not caring about that and being completely taken in by the people in the story. Their lives….
Reading this book was like sitting and chatting with a friend over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and talking about life. The book IS about life.
The other thing I really enjoyed was the friendship between the two siblings. Being the older sister of a brother and having grown up being best friends I couldn’t help but let myself wonder how sometimes as we grow up we let that friendship fizzle. We’re still great friends but not like Danny and Meave. I also was able to see how that type of friendship between siblings can sometimes be detrimental to other relationships in our lives and throughout the book the reader is reminded of that.
What drove me crazy
Danny drove me crazy sometimes. He was completely focused on the past. Why he didn’t do something or why someone did something to him. He let his past dictate his present and eventually his future. He was so passive that it drove me nuts and I even found myself sometimes silently yelling at him to grow up.
Although Meave also focused on the past she was able to let it go and forgive the people who had hurt her because she knew that not forgiving or letting go would ultimately ruin her. I felt bad for Danny that he could not do the something but I wanted him to learn to just let go and live his life.
The other thing that sometimes was frustrating was not knowing. The fact that the book just kept going and talking bout the lives of all these people made me crazy sometimes. I wanted to know the point. Perhaps the thing is that there is no point. We are here, as readers, to just enjoy listening (reading) about this family who is in a way like so many of us and is going through a lot of the things most of us go through. Marriage, death, sickness, raising children, not getting along with in-laws and then getting along with in-laws, love and hate. I think that once I realized that the point was to not have a point I was find and the book was amazing after that.
Do I Recommend It?
Absolutely. I think that if you can get past the fact that the story is about a family just like your or anyone else’s in the world and they are just trying to survive then I think this book will teach you a few things. I think you will enjoy the adventure. It’s slow to happen but it will happen…. Trust me.
I’m not sure if this was Danny or Meave while they are sitting in the car talking. They used to enjoy sitting in Meave’s car. The car was where they had their deepest conversations and sometimes where Danny learned the most about his family and why thing happened the way they did. During one of the conversations one of them had the following to say about how the past sometimes colors the present and the way we see things.
But we overlay the present onto the past. We look back through the lens of what we know now, 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.
Danny talking about his father.
He had protected me from the world so completely that I had no idea what the world was capable of.
Danny thinking about the past and how it affects the present.
There are a few times in life when you leap up and the past that you’d been standing on falls away behind you, and the future you mean to land on is not yet in place, and for a moment you’re suspended, knowing nothing and no one, not even yourself.