Top positive review
My New Patchett Favorite!
Reviewed in the United States on September 24, 2019
I read Ann Patchett’s “Patron Saint of Liars”, when it came out almost 30 years ago and loved it so much that I wrote Ms. Patchett a letter praising it, and she wrote me a lovely note back; I became a fan for life, reading every one of her marvelous (and unique!) novels. So yes, I was primed to love “The Dutch House”, and I did! Not just because it’s my habit to rave about Patchett’s novels, but because it’s GREAT; it’s my new favorite!
“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!