The Dutch House is a first for me on many aspects:
It is the first book that I read and listened to simultaneously. It was recommended by a friend who said, “listening to the book that you are reading adds a voice and more imagination to the characters.” On that suggestion, I picked The Dutch House, but after 4 chapters, it was all audiobook only.
It was my first novel by Ann Patchett, who has written many famous books and is the daughter of the renowned novelist Jeanne Ray.
The Dutch house was the only audiobook that I listened to that was narrated by a celebrity. Tom Hanks is the narrator of the book ( a reason why I didn’t return to reading it instead of listening to it)
The first half of the story centers around Cyril Conroy, who builds a real estate empire right after World War II. The crown jewel of his investment was the Dutch House, located in the suburbs of Philadelphia. The lavish property was a landmark in the small town and stood out in the way it was constructed. Cyril, who lived most of his early life in poverty, bought the property in an auction to surprise his wife, but somehow it unfolded a series of events that contributed towards an unpleasant time for the family.
Their younger son, Danny, narrates the story that runs through three generations of Conroy family. Danny’s elder sister Maeve is an intelligent and guiding angel in Danny’s life, who also looks after him when their mother abandons them at a very young age.
Danny’s point of view was very consistent throughout the book, and all the characters were very relatable, right from the first page. I really admired Patchett’s craft in developing these characters and scenes.
One of the main themes of the story is “the baggage of past” that shapes our present and future. For example, both Danny and Maeve stopped living in the Dutch House at an early age of their lives, but it was always in their thoughts. Maeve’s character is my favorite in the book, and I admired her decision making even though some of her decisions were far from perfect.
Most of the tropes used in the story building were not uncommon, and rarely was I surprised by the events in the book. However, there was no dull moment in the story, and the credit goes to the author for that. The sibling relationship stood out, and the portrayal of emotions was terrific.
Overall, The Dutch House was indeed an experience for me and did help to lift my spirits in the gloomy times of lockdown. I am glad that I have recommended it to many friends and they enjoyed listening to it too. I also made a point to read more books by Ann Patchett. Though I don’t own the hard copy, I checked it in a book store, and its jacket is beautiful and is a piece of art in itself (It reminded me of Ali Smith book jackets).
I will also recommend you to try the co-reading/listening experience even though I stopped doing it in the middle of this book ( I will give it another try again ).
Book Name: The Dutch House
Author: Ann Patchett
Book Type: eBook/ Audiobook