‘The Dutch House’ by Ann Patchett – This Old House


‘The Dutch House’ by Ann Patchett (2019) – 337 pages

Again I found out that not every work of fiction is meant for every reader. There are extreme differences in taste and in interests from author to author and from reader to reader. The reading of fiction is a very subjective activity.

Sometimes a particular novel is just not suited for an individual reader. Unfortunately that is the case of ‘The Dutch House’ for me. And I should have known. Just by the title alone I could have known that one of the main characters in the novel would be the Dutch House itself, and I am just not that much into real estate.

‘The Dutch House’ is the life story of mainly two children, brother Danny and sister Maeve, who live with their father in a spectacular old house built by a Dutch businessman named VanHoebeek in the 19th century. The furnishings of the house are elaborate including portraits of the VanHoebeeks which hang on the wall in the drawing room. The entire third floor of the Dutch House is taken up with a ballroom.

The mother of Danny and sister Maeve was in the convent training to be a nun when she got married, and she couldn’t stand the ostentation of living in the Dutch House so she took off for India to help the poor people there, leaving her two children and their father behind.

Enter the wicked stepmother, Andrea, and her two daughters Norma and Bright.

My daughters are none of your business.” Her face was burnished with the energy it took to hate us, the energy it took to convince herself that every wrong thing that had happened in her life was our fault.”

A lot of things happen in this novel, but the focus always remains on the Dutch House. Even in one of the scenes that pass for high drama here, a character is not too busy or involved to note that the crown molding on the ceiling of one of the rooms in the Dutch House is called egg-and-dart. Admittedly this house is of superior crafting, but these kind of details rather bored me to distraction.

There are a few nice scenes in the novel. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Danny first meets the woman he would later marry, Celeste, on a train.

Even though ‘The Dutch House’ is an account of the entire lives of these two characters Danny and Maeve, three of the other characters are the housekeepers and nanny who worked in the Dutch House when the two were little. The focus is always on that old house.

Rather than a suspenseful or brilliant story, this is more a steady workmanlike account of these two people’s lives along with a few of the people they meet along the way. I thought there was going to be high drama involving the wicked stepmother, but that story line is dropped with no resolution until near the end of the novel.

I did not find ‘The Dutch House’ compelling, but it is kind of my own fault for choosing this novel to read in the first place.


Grade:   B-



9 responses to this post.

  1. Sounds sort of meh to me too. I’ll pass this one.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. How interesting to see a not glowing review of this book. It doesn’t particularly appeal to me, but if I saw it in the library I’d give it a go.

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Yours is the first review of this book I’ve seen that hasn’t been full of praise. I’ll still want to read it though because I enjoyed the only other Patchett book I read so much (Bel Canto)

    Liked by 1 person


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