Reminiscent of some of our favorite siblings in great literature such as Phoebe and Holden, Franny and Zooey, and Jem and Scout, sister and brother Maeve and Danny, in Ann Patchett’s latest novel THE DUTCH HOUSE are inseparable, protective of each other, as circumstances require, and caught in the crossfire of their own unique tragedies. From the start of the book, Maeve and Danny grab your heart. Young children who live in a house that looks that on the outside is the stuff of fairy tales but on the inside, it is far from it. Unless you count some characters like those in Cinderella. Their successful, stern father has not an ounce of sensitivity nor does he seem to have the warmth that children crave and need. Their mother is quite the opposite, but she has her own issues. She is soon to abandon young Maeve and Danny (this is not a spoiler). All that seems to be stable is this gorgeous Dutch house, overly grand, yet comforting in its own way.
I was so deeply moved by this book. A bond so tight between a sister and brother. Their memories are bounded by the house in which they live and the portraits on the walls from the previous owners add more than décor, they are a symbol of the past. I admire their connection to something ever so elusive and their ability to care for one another despite their lack of parental compassion as a guide. I eagerly anticipated the dialogue between Maeve and Danny at every stage, as life moves them along. While there is looming heartache in their lives, they are survivors, and Patchett creates a language between them that keeps you captivated throughout. And, it is not without humor. I’m talking smirking as you read, wicked at times, of the must underline variety.
Houses have been an integral part of literature for years and THE DUTCH HOUSE is no exception. It makes you feel like you are, not necessarily an invited guest, but a privileged fly on the wall to this gracious residence steeped with secrets that you will long to learn. The second Mrs. de Winter of Manderley has nothing on the mistress of the Dutch house.
I was left wondering, with each chapter, how she came up with this story. I am in awe with how each character is connected, where they were going, and what would become of them. THE DUTCH HOUSE is most definitely my number one of Ms. Patchett's books.