The Dutch House (2012)

by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House is an unusual exploration of a close brother-sister relationship written from the adult point-of-view of the brother, Danny Conroy. Maeve, seven years older, was Danny’s surrogate mother, protector, and touchstone after their mother left when they were 3 and 10. Through Danny’s school years, college and medical school, career as a real estate developer, and even marriage and fatherhood, Danny’s devotion to Maeve transcends everything else.

Featuring a palatial house from which its children are exiled by a wicked stepmother, The Dutch House has been compared with a fairy tale. The ostentatious house of the title was acquired by real estate entrepreneur Cyril Conroy when its owners, a Dutch couple, went bankrupt. His wife, a Mother Teresa type, hated living grandiosely so much that she fled to India to work with the poor. Cyril’s second wife desires the house more than him. When Cyril dies, she casts out his orphaned children. Maeve and Danny are left with only an education fund that Maeve wants Danny to deplete before their stepsisters can tap into it. Danny reluctantly goes to medical school but never practices medicine. Like his father, his passion is real estate.

Portrayed through Danny’s worshipful eyes, Maeve is a fascinating character, intelligent, direct, kind, and tough. Nowhere does Patchett suggest that their unbreakable bond is less than healthy. Despite its subjects of abandonment and loss, The Dutch House leaves the reader with a heartwarming feeling.


Home               My reviews               My friends' reviews