Rosepoint Publishing: Five Stars
Best Literature & Fiction
Ann Patchett, the number-one New York Times best-selling author of Commonwealth, delivers her 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 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.
Okay, yes you got me! I enjoyed this book in no small part because the audiobook is narrated by Tom Hanks. Hanks literally becomes Danny, the main character but still never veers too far from that Academy-winning rad-da-tat animated delivery. I had to check the speed as there was more than once I thought I might have set it to 125% of normal. Gees, he’s good, and thank heaven or this could have become a rather slow burn at times.
As revealed by the blurb, Danny and his sister Maeve (7 years older) are kicked out of their very wealthy and lavish estate by their wicked step-mom after his father passes suddenly intestate. I may have been washing dishes at that point and missed how old the kids were at that point, but it was literally a case of rags to riches back to rags. They’d enjoyed the good life and then it ended.
So, Danny, always looked after by his big sister, may be the typical clueless male. I thought there were times he swerved into narcissism, while his stoic sister Maeve never takes her eyes off the ball. There were also times I wanted to slap him upside his head! Maeve has settled into a comfortable living but will not settle unless Danny does the same and using the one loophole their step-mother failed to see, she pushes him to higher learning. GO! Be a doctor! Dutifully, he does, all the while declaring he will never practice. (Thank heavens as his bedside manner would suck.)
What he does practice, wisely, is real estate. Hey, he had gleaned some knowledge from his father. Yes, and then because that was expected, a wife. But Danny, perhaps again mirroring his dad with his step-mother, marries a woman he really does not love. I doubt there would ever have been a woman who could take Maeve’s place. That is a sibling bond born of desperation and survival.
Through the decades this narrative covers, each, together and separately, go back to The Dutch House to see how it is faring. Amazingly well, as it turns out, although the same cannot be said of Andrea, the step-mom. It’s a great, hulking enormous estate, still oozing the original (Dutch) owners’ vibrations—a reason their mother fled after they moved in to go serve the poor where she felt she really belonged.
Heavy family dynamics, feelings of abandonment, sibling loyalty, loss, the characters well developed and, typically, 180 degrees in dreams and thought processes. Times I ached for Maeve, angry with Danny. The step-mom painted with all the warts of the stereotypical step-parent.
As always with an extremely successful novel, there are detractors, but this is a Pulitzer Prize finalist. And performed by Tom Hanks, I’d also bestow an honorary Audie. He is awesome.
I received a complimentary audiobook copy from my local well-stocked library. These are my honest thoughts.
Genre: Coming of Age Fiction, Family Life Fiction, Literary Fiction
Listening Length: 9 hrs 53 mins
Narrator: Tom Hanks
Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Dutch House [Amazon]
Barnes & Noble
Ann Patchett is the author of six novels, including Bel Canto, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction. She writes for the New York Times Magazine, Elle, GQ, the Financial Times, the Paris Review and Vogue. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
New York Times best seller | A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick | A New York Times Book Review Notable Book | Time Magazine’s 100 Must-Read Books of 2019 | 2020 Audie finalist – audiobook of the year and best male narrator
Named one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, The Washington Post; O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, Vogue, Refinery29, and Buzzfeed
Tom Hanks – Narrating this heartbreaking and compelling story is not the first connection between Patchett and Hanks. Patchett, the New York Times bestselling author of Commonwealth and State of Wonder, told the Associated Press that she and Hanks have become friends in recent years. Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, have spent time with Patchett at Parnassus Books, the renowned bookstore she owns in Nashville, Tennessee. And in 2017, Patchett joined Hanks at a sold-out event sponsored by the Washington, D.C., bookstore Politics and Prose to interview him in conjunction with his promotion of Uncommon Type, his own collection of short stories.
[Info and photo attribute: BookBub]
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