Monday 22 March 2021

The Dutch House

Finished March 18 
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, read by Tom Hanks

I started this book back in March 2020 when I was commuting to work and when the commute stopped, so did the reading. I recently started it up again to listen to while I did crafts and really enjoyed getting back into it. Tom Hanks does a great job of the reading, even breaking into song in one part. 
The story is of a place, a house that was bought by an ambitious young man, Cyril Conroy, for his family after it had been sitting empty for some time, empty of residents that is. 
It was bought full of the art, furniture, and other possessions of the Dutch family that built it. From crystal chandeliers to family portraits, Dutch language books in the bookcase and finely upholstered furniture the house was ready to live in. But Cyril and his wife Elna had come from the inner city. He'd made a career in real estate, but Elna had trouble adjusting to life in such a house, especially with servants who did the work she'd be used to doing. They had two young children, Maeve and Danny, and soon Cyril's wife left, at first for India to work with the poor there. For much of the book we don't learn her story, but she does return to it near the end. 
Meave and Danny were raised mostly by the two women working in the house, sisters Jocelyn and Sandy, who loved them as if they were their own. Danny started going with his father on the weekends to visit the buildings that he owned, help him collect the rents and learn about the business. Right down to the nuts and bolts of maintenance. But a single man of that kind of wealth attracts some attention and a woman had set her sights on Cyril. By this time, Maeve was in college and Danny in high school, and by the time the young single mother Andrea married Cyril and moved in with her two daughters Norma and Bright, Cyril was in her hands. Thus, when Cyril died young, the first thing Andrea did was kick Danny out of the house. Maeve and Danny soon discovered that she had maneuvered things so that she was the sole heir of the estate and the only thing Danny had access to was an educational trust fund. 
As the book begins, Danny and Maeve are sitting in a car on the street looking at the house and wishing they still lived there, so their circumstances are pretty clear from the beginning and how they got there soon gets told. 
The rest of the book tells of their growing up, starting lives of their own, but never able to let go of this house that had been their home. The story is told from Danny's viewpoint and Hanks brings him to life. We see his relationship to his sister, his happenstance meeting of his future wife and how his sister played a role in getting them together, how his history led to his career decisions and some of his personal ones. We also see how Maeve made Danny her project, giving up her own goals to ensure that he became a success despite Andrea's manipulations. 
Andrea is the stereotypical evil stepmother, a caricature of a person. The other characters are more complex, and the story makes some lovely turns bringing it to a quite unexpected ending that seems perfect. 


  1. Good review. I was not too enthuisastic about The Dutch House but that might also be a personal thing. I might have enjoyed Tom Hanks reading the story but I'm not much into audiobooks, either. Can't concentrate.

    Anyway, it was nice reading your review and seeing that someone else did like it.

    1. Sorry for the typo. enthusiastic, of course.

    2. No worries Marianne, I've done it myself. Tom Hanks was definitely a great narrator here, and helped make the book come alive. This is the first audiobook I've completed in more than a year, and I have several more that are waiting for me to listen to. I just learned to knit, so found that I could listen while I did that.

    3. I'd still get distracted with counting the rows and the pattern. LOL But nice that you can do two things you like at the same time. Enjoy.