The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Ann Patchett is indisputably one of the greatest storytellers of our time and her eighth novel, The Dutch House, is an undeniable joy to read. I recommend settling into this novel. It starts slowly but before you realise it you will be caught up within the epic story which will keep you safely marooned for the entire reading. Be prepared for personal reflection as Patchett’s sense of humanity allows you to look further into your own history and observe your own follies.
The Dutch House is the life story of Danny Conroy, a frank and reliable narrator. It begins as his parents move to the impressive and ostentatious ‘Dutch House’ bought by his father, Cyril Conroy, who had created great wealth through a vast real estate empire. Although meant as a surprise for his wife, Elna, Cyril’s purchase of the house sets in motion the eventual downfall of his family. His wife leaves, a replacement is found and his children, Danny and his older sister Maeve, are thrown into the street. Set over generations, this story has all the elements of a cautionary fairytale like Hansel and Gretel. Danny’s voice is deliciously circumspect, allowing you to fully believe his truth; his close and reliant relationship with his sister, his disappointment with his mother and all of his cumulative sadness and anguish.
Patchett’s skill is the building of suspense through detailed moments of petty grievances while elaborating on the larger life misdemeanours. All of Danny’s account could have happened. Surely it is possible. Danny Conroy will be as real to you as Anna Karenina or Scout Finch. Their stories are universal. Readers of Anne Tyler or Annie Proulx will relish this novel that defines families by commitment and heartbreak. Again, Patchett has created the perfect read.