The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Orange Prize and PEN/Faulkner Award-winning author Ann Patchett's latest book is a sheer delight.
Have you have ever formed an attachment to a house? Do you reminisce about the house you grew up in? "The Dutch House" captures how much of our memory of family is bound up in our memories of "home." In a story told by Danny Conroy, son of Irish Catholic businessman Cyril Conroy, we learn all about the Conroy home, called the Dutch House, in honor of the family that built it and lived there, the vanHouebeeks. (Pronounced Van Who-bake, btw.) Purchased by Cyril Conroy in the 1950's for his wife Elna, and his two children Maeve and Danny, the Dutch House, on VanHoebeek Street in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania became almost mythical in Danny and Maeve's childhood. Unfortunately, their mother hated the Dutch House, and further, hated her life as the wife of a real estate baron. She left to do charity work in India when Danny was four and Maeve going on twelve. After a brief fling with their nanny, Cyril remarries, to an odd half-Dutch woman named Andrea who is like gum stuck to his shoe in terms of her sticking power. She comes with two daughters, Norma and Bright, to whom Danny and Maeve develop a degree of attachment. None of the children appears very attached to Andrea, however. The story of the family's ups and downs in the years after the new Mrs. Conroy enters the picture form the core of the novel, as does the incredible love and devotion Danny and Maeve have for each other. This is such a wonderful story of siblings. Although there is sadness in the story, there is such warmth and humor. I was left wanting to meet the Conroys- from Maeve and Danny, to May and Kevin, and even Norma and Bright. Elna was a character that also fascinated me. Frankly, I could talk about her for hours.
This is an excellent selection for book club readers. There are plenty of thought-provoking questions to ask about the characters in this novel and it will be a joy to read.
I listened to the audiobook version of the novel courtesy of Libro.fm. (The audiobook company where purchases can support your local indie bookshop) Actor Tom Hanks does a fabulous job of bringing the characters in the story to life. If you're an audiobook lover, this one is a worthy investment.
I received a paper review copy from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review and a complimentary copy of the audiobook from HarperAudio via Libro.fm in exchange for an honest review.
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