The Dutch House: A Novel Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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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
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.
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|Listening Length||9 hours and 53 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||September 24, 2019|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #281 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#5 in Coming of Age Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#10 in Family Life Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#18 in Literary Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
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“The Dutch House”, (itself as much a character as any of the humans in the novel) is in a suburb of Philadelphia. Just after WWII, Cyril Conroy buys the palatial mansion – fully and sumptuously furnished – for his wife Elna and it is where Danny and Maeve Conroy grew up. Danny is our first-person narrator and he and Maeve are a modern day Hansel and Gretel, complete with abandonment, banishment, and a wicked step-mother. They even have three Fairy Godmothers: Fluffy, Sandy, and Jocelyn.
“The Dutch House” is the story of a “modern family”, as this was the era when families started to become fractured and step-parents and step-siblings became more prevalent. Some of these themes Patchett explored beautifully in “Commonwealth”, and she knows whereof she speaks because she’s written essays about her own large, extended, loosely-related-by-a-string, family.
I was absorbed from page one, and I hated to turn the last page. What makes Patchett so accessible and relevant is her beautiful writing, her wit, and the fascinating stories she spins out of every-day life.
At the most surprising, dramatic, and climactic scene in the novel Danny narrates: “I had not been born with an imagination large enough to encompass this moment.” Well, Ann Patchett was born with an imagination large enough – thank heavens! What a magnificent story!
We are supposed to believe that the mother, who abandoned her family when her kids were small, to travel the world to aid the poor. Years later she is "found" by a former nanny and returns to her "family" who embrace her unreservedly, in fact consider her a saint. Really? A saint?
The beginning of the book held much promise. But the last 100 pages were unbelievable. Everybody gets together and "love" one another because of the mother's return! "Happy endings" are sprinkled throughout.
We are supposed to believe that the mother "hated" the house her husband bought and surprised her with: enough hate that drove her away from her children who were then forced to live without her. What I viewed as "selfish" was judged by the author as "love".
She is "found" after 40 years and is welcomed by the most of the family and staff as if her decision was "saintly". Also "forgiven" was the nanny who had an affair with the father. None of the storyline was credible.
Sorry to only award 2 stars for this novel. I was hoping for a better and more believable narrative but it failed.
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At the age of 49, Mr Doyle married again: Andrea, a Protestant of 31 with two young daughters of her own, Norma and Bright, respectively three and five years younger than Danny, whom she brought into the house. The little girls took to Danny and Maeve, though Andrea did not. She was a Protestant whereas the Conroys were Catholics. It was not a good marriage. Mr Conroy once said that Andrea had married him because she wanted the house. Perhaps he married her because, unlike his previous wife, she shared his love for the house and its contents. Andrea almost always got her way: her husband rarely stood up to her wishes. Maeve and Danny had disliked Andrea from the start, and the dislike was mutual. Andrea also constantly found reasons to criticize Sandy and Jocelyn. When Maeve was away at school in New York, Andrea reorganized the house, moved her eldest daughter into Maeve’s room and when Maeve was home of the holidays, she was moved into a small room up in the attic. So she hardly ever stayed at home – living in her dorm in New York during the holidays or staying with friends. When she graduated, she returned to Philadelphia, got a job helping to run a business and lived in a little apartment instead of in the Dutch House.
Mr Conroy died in 1963, when Danny was 15. Andrea never forgave Danny and Maeve for having told her the news only after they had been to their father dead in the hospital, and for having arranged for their father to be buried in a Catholic cemetery instead of a Protestant one.
Mr Conroy had left the house to her, not to his own children. All he had done for Danny and Andrea’s children was to set up a trust for their education through high school and college. He had also made Andrea a partner in his business. Maeve and Danny offered to take over running the Conroy business: Maeve had accounting experience in a firm she worked for, and Danny had always accompanied his father when he went to collect the rents. But not only did Andrea refuse (she would sell the entire business), but she asked Maeve to take Danny away from the house, with immediate effect: she would not raise her stepson. He moved into Maeve’s little apartment. Andrea also dismissed Sandy and Jocelyn without notice.
Danny eventually went to Choate as a boarder and then to the Columbia Medical School in New York, though he had no intention to become a doctor and after his graduation went into real estate, as his father had done. Maeve will do his accounts.
Every two or three weeks Danny went to visit Maeve in Philadelphia. And, every couple of months or so, he and Maeve would drive up to the Dutch House and look at it for 15 minutes or so. They were still doing it twenty-seven years after Andrea had turned them out. They never went in.
Much of this part is about Danny’s relationship with Celeste Norcross, a girl he met on a train in 1965 and whom, after a lot of ups and downs, he would eventually marry. They have two children, May and Kevin. Maeve does not approve of Celeste, and Celeste resents the close relationship between the siblings.
Fluffy resurfaces, and from her Danny learns that his mother was back in the United States. When Danny and Celeste have their first child, Fluffy was engaged to be May’s nanny, and, through her, Danny learns a great deal more about the past - not only about his parents (Fluffy had had an affaire with Danny’s father), but also about the VanHoebeeks.
At the beginning of Part Three, Maeve had a serious heart attack and was in hospital. When Danny went to the hospital, he saw that their mother Elna, now in her mid-seventies, was there. Fluffy had told Elna about the heart-attack. Maeve was delighted to see her, 47 years after Elna had left them: she had always missed her mother, and forgave her long absence. But Danny, who had never known her, could not forgive her, because her departure had led to Andrea evicting him from the Dutch House. When Maeve went home from hospital, Elna went to live with her. Danny was frigid with her whenever he drove over to see Maeve. Only when his beloved sister told him that Danny owed it to her to be friendly towards Elna did he resolve to try.
And then one day Elna, who was driving with her Maeve and Danny in the car, drove over to the Dutch House; but, instead of just looking at it from the other side of the road, she drove right up to the house. Danny, at 45, must have looked like his father, for Andrea recognized him as such. She was suffering from some kind of dementia, and her daughter Norma had moved in to look after her. Andrea felt comfortable with Elna, and Norma wanted more help. Unbelievably, Elna moved into the Dutch House, and a fortnight later Maeve died. Elna stayed in the Dutch House after Andrea died. I did not like the ending: it was all rather abrupt and forced.
I am never quite happy with books in which there is too much back and forth in time; and this feature is particularly irritating in this book because there are not enough dates, so it is often very difficult to know at what stage in Danny’s life various episodes happen. And although many of the characters are well drawn, I also found much of the book quite hard to believe.
The story is told in two timelines from Danny's point of view and the only flaw in the book is that sometimes the switch although sometimes seamless, is hard to follow. The characters are superbly drawn and the plotting leaves no loose ends
Highly recommend for fans of Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Strout.