Reviews for The Dutch House

by Ann Patchett

Publishers Weekly
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A 1920s mansion worms into the lives of the broken family that occupies it in another masterly novel from Patchett (Commonwealth). In 1945, Brooklyn-born real-estate entrepreneur Cyril Conroy purchases the Dutch House in Elkins Park, outside Philadelphia, and presents it, complete with Delft mantels, life-size portraits of the original owners, a ballroom, and staff, to his wife. She hates it. She runs away to serve the poor, abandoning her 10-year-old daughter, Maeve, and three-year-old son, Danny. Five years later, Maeve and Danny meet Conroy’s second wife. The second Mrs. Conroy adores the house. When Cyril dies, she keeps it, dispossessing Maeve and Danny of any inheritance except funds for Danny’s education, which they use to send Danny to Choate, Columbia, and medical school. Grown-up Danny narrates, remembering his sister as an unswerving friend and protector. For Patchett, family connection comes not from formal ties or ceremonies but from shared moments: Danny accompanying his father to work, Danny’s daughter painting her grandmother’s fingernails, Maeve and Danny together trying to decode the past. Despite the presence of a grasping stepmother, this is no fairy tale, and Patchett remarkably traces acts of cruelty and kindness through three generations of a family over 50 years. Patchett’s splendid novel is a thoughtful, compassionate exploration of obsession and forgiveness, what people acquire, keep, lose or give away, and what they leave behind. (Sept.)


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Their mother's disappearance cements an unbreakable connection between a pair of poor-little-rich-kid siblings.Like The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer or Life Among Giants by Bill Roorbach, this is a deeply pleasurable book about a big house and the family that lives in it. Toward the end of World War II, real estate developer and landlord Cyril Conroy surprises his wife, Elna, with the keys to a mansion in the Elkins Park neighborhood of Philadelphia. Elna, who had no idea how much money her husband had amassed and still thought they were poor, is appalled by the luxurious property, which comes fully furnished and complete with imposing portraits of its former owners (Dutch people named VanHoebeek) as well as a servant girl named Fluffy. When her son, Danny, is 3 and daughter, Maeve, is 10, Elna's antipathy for the place sends her on the lamfirst occasionally, then permanently. This leaves the children with the household help and their rigid, chilly father, but the difficulties of the first year pale when a stepmother and stepsisters appear on the scene. Then those problems are completely dwarfed by further misfortune. It's Danny who tells the story, and he's a wonderful narrator, stubborn in his positions, devoted to his sister, and quite clear about various errorslike going to medical school when he has no intention of becoming a doctorwhile utterly committed to them. "We had made a fetish out of our disappointment," he says at one point, "fallen in love with it." Casually stated but astute observations about human nature are Patchett's (Commonwealth, 2016, etc.) stock in trade, and she again proves herself a master of aging an ensemble cast of characters over many decades. In this story, only the house doesn't change. You will close the book half believing you could drive to Elkins Park and see it.Like the many-windowed mansion at its center, this richly furnished novel gives brilliantly clear views into the lives it contains. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

The Conroys kept the portraits of the stalwart VanHoebeeks, the wealthy builders of the so-called Dutch House, on display even as their own family fractured. A self-made real-estate magnate, Cyril bought the fully furnished mansion in a prosperous Philadelphia suburb to surprise his wife, catastrophically oblivious to her temperament and values. Cyril's son Danny has scant impressions of his long-gone mother, but his older sister, Maeve, cherishes her memories. After their father fails, once again, to gauge the situation and remarries, the mysteriously motherless yet privileged siblings are abruptly banished from their stately home and left penniless. This inspires brainy, mordant, unconventional, and fiercely self-sufficient Maeve to redouble her devotion to her brother. Patchett (Commonwealth, 2016) is at her subtle yet shining finest in this gloriously incisive, often droll, quietly suspenseful drama of family, ambition, and home. As Maeve and Danny dwell in ""their own paradise of memory,"" their bond takes precedence over all else in their lives, including Danny's marriage, while Maeve's love life remains cloaked to Danny but heartbreakingly clear to readers. With echoes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and in sync with Alice McDermott, Patchett gracefully choreographs surprising revelations and reunions as her characters struggle with questions of heredity, altruism, forgiveness, social expectations, and the need to be one's true self.--Donna Seaman Copyright 2010 Booklist


Library Journal
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This latest from Patchett (Commonwealth) is a decadeslong family saga centered on a piece of real estate. Narrator Danny recalls his troubled childhood in the stately Philadelphia-area mansion purchased by his father, who was striving for a level of elegance and comfort that Danny's ascetic mother, an aspiring nun before marriage, could never accept. Largely raised by his saintly sister, Maeve, and a small household staff after his mother runs off to India in the footsteps of Mother Teresa, Danny forms an unbreakable bond with Maeve and a shared obsession with the Dutch House, from which he and Maeve are banned by Andrea, their egotistical stepmother, after their father's early death. The siblings structure their lives around the tragic loss of their home, sublimating their feelings of parental neglect into an all-encompassing loathing of Andrea. VERDICT Not all of Patchett's characters, particularly Maeve, are fully developed or believable, perhaps because of the narrator's own limited powers of observation; Danny more than once acknowledges his own lazy inattention to the people who care for him. Still, this is an affecting family drama that explores the powerful tug of nostalgia and the exclusionary force of shared resentments.—Lauren Gilbert, Sachem P.L., Holbrook, NY

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