The Dutch House
A NovelLarge Print - 2019
A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!
From the New York Times bestselling author of Commonwealth and State of Wonder, comes Ann Patchett's most powerful novel to date: a richly moving story that explores the indelible bond between two siblings, the house of their childhood, and a past that will not let them go. 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.
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 unshakeable 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.
From the critics
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“Habit is a funny thing. You might think you understand it, but you can never exactly see what it looks like when you’re doing it.” - p.255
"Disappointment comes from expectation, and in those days I had no expectation that Andrea would get anything less than what she wanted.” - pp. 58-59
“Do you think it’s possible to ever see the past as it actually was?” I asked my sister…
“I see the past as it actually was, “ Maeve said….
“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.” - p. 45
'Home is so sad...It stays as it was left, shaped to the comfort of the last to go as if to win them back. Instead, bereft of anyone to please, it withers so, having no heart to put aside the theft. And turn again to what it started as, a joyous shot at how things ought to be, long fallen wide. You can see how it was: look at the pictures and the cutlery. The music in the piano stool. That vase.' Larkin
'You think he was sleeping with Fluffy?' I asked her... The news of this affair came to me as most information did: many years after the fact, in a car parked outside the Dutch house with my sister.
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