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Pulitzer Prize Finalist | New York Times Bestseller | A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick | A New York Times Book Review Notable Book | TIME Magazine's 100 Must-Read Books of the Year
Named one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, The Washington Post; O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, Vogue, Refinery29, and Buzzfeed
From Ann Patchett, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Commonwealth, comes a powerful, richly moving story that explores the indelible bond between two siblings, the house of their childhood, and a past that will not let them go. The Dutch House is the story of a paradise lost, a tour de force that digs deeply into questions of inheritance, love and forgiveness, of how we want to see ourselves and of who we really are.
At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.
The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakeable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.
Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Ann Patchett’s extraordinary domestic novel made us laugh a lot and cry nearly as often, offering profound insight into family loyalty. The book follows narrator Danny and his sister, Maeve, over 50 years, starting with their post–World War II childhood in a Philadelphia suburb. After the siblings’ mother runs off and their father brings home a girlfriend, the two find themselves ejected from their family home—and their lives take unexpected twists and turns. Patchett’s writing is on point, combining Grace Paley’s droll observational skills with Shirley Jackson’s ability to dramatically inflate tiny events and Margaret Atwood’s appraisals of social class. There’s suspense around every delft-blue corner of The Dutch House.
A 1920s mansion worms into the lives of the broken family that occupies it in another masterly novel from Patchett (Commonwealth). In 1945, Brooklyn-born real-estate entrepreneur Cyril Conroy purchases the Dutch House in Elkins Park, outside Philadelphia, and presents it, complete with Delft mantels, life-size portraits of the original owners, a ballroom, and staff, to his wife. She hates it. She runs away to serve the poor, abandoning her 10-year-old daughter, Maeve, and three-year-old son, Danny. Five years later, Maeve and Danny meet Conroy's second wife. The second Mrs. Conroy adores the house. When Cyril dies, she keeps it, dispossessing Maeve and Danny of any inheritance except funds for Danny's education, which they use to send Danny to Choate, Columbia, and medical school. Grown-up Danny narrates, remembering his sister as an unswerving friend and protector. For Patchett, family connection comes not from formal ties or ceremonies but from shared moments: Danny accompanying his father to work, Danny's daughter painting her grandmother's fingernails, Maeve and Danny together trying to decode the past. Despite the presence of a grasping stepmother, this is no fairy tale, and Patchett remarkably traces acts of cruelty and kindness through three generations of a family over 50 years. Patchett's splendid novel is a thoughtful, compassionate exploration of obsession and forgiveness; what people acquire, keep, lose or give away; and what they leave behind.