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The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett.

June 5, 2020

The Dutch HouseThe Dutch House, by Ann Patchett.  Harper Collins, 2019.

A novel about two siblings haunted into their adult lives by the loss of their mother, their father, and their big, strange home.

3 stars

Ann Pachett is a popular, contemporary fiction writer who has published seven novels, several of them bestsellers, as well as non-fiction and essays.  She is the winner of several prestigious literary awards.  Her education includes graduation from Sarah Lawrence College and the Iowa’s Writers Workshop. She lives in Nashville where she owns the Parnassus Bookstore.

Danny, the narrator of The Dutch House, and his sister, Mauve, lived with their father in a large, domineering house that previously had belonged to a “Dutch” family.  Their mother had hated the house and left the family.  The father remarried a younger woman who loved the house and rejected the children.  When their father died, she ran Danny and Mauve out of the house.  They bonded strongly, becoming a family of their own.  Their bonds and their nostalgia for the lost house continue as they become adults.  In an unusual ending, they reclaim part of their childhood.

Like many of Pachett’s books, The Dutch House is full of strange situations and characters.  It has an almost fairy tale atmosphere with Danny and Mauve as Hansel and Gretel. Their disorientation seems less sentimental than a sense of the loss of both psychological and economic security, even of identity.  The lives they create as adults seem cobbled together out of their past, in the end circling back to their childhood.

Pachett has long been a favorite author of mine, but I did not find this her best book.  In her previous books, I have been pulled into her unusual characters and situations, but not this time.  Other reviewers seem to have liked it better than I did.

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