The Dutch House by Anne Patchett

The story is about a dysfunctional family who lived in The Dutch House. Cyril Conroy gets rich, buys the house, and surprises his wife Elna, who does like the enormous house. She leaves her family to go to India to help the poor. Maeve gets sick with diabetes after Elna left her, and although she recovers, she is always on a watch. Cyril marries again and dies early. His second wife plays the role of the wicked stepmother, takes away everything, and kicks Maeve and Danny out of the house.

Things happen, and until they get old, they kept going back to the house. They haven’t moved on.

The Dutch House: A Novel: Patchett, Ann: 9780062963673: Books
Image via amazon

About Maeve

Oh, I love Maeve. She was so much like me in so many ways (hah!). She was this ever-protective elder sister. She wanted the best for Danny even though she had to sacrifice a lot. Circumstances had made her mature at a young age, and I love how she is mature yet cool at the same time.

Her hatred towards Andrea, their wicked stepmother, remained until her death. Who would not have? When their father died, Andrea kicked them out of the house and took over their money and business. And I could not believe their super-rich father didn’t make a will for them and all that remained for them was education funds for Danny only.

Maeve never forgave Andrea, and I was wondering if I would do the same? I think so.

About Danny

Danny was this small innocent boy at the beginning of the story. He was oblivious to anything else, well, actually, until he grew up, he was still insensitive except towards Maeve. He was very loyal to his sister.

Their long-lost mother came back when Maeve had a heart failure and was sick in the hospital bed. Danny could not forgive her. He thought his mother was narcissistic when she left them when he was still very young to go to India and serve the poor. It sounded like a joke to me – his mother. She went away to help the poor, left her young kids alone, and then later on with a wicked stepmother who kicked them from the house. She was the root cause of all their miseries. She was why Maeve suffered diabetes at a very young age because she missed her mom so much. Then suddenly, she decided to come back like nothing really happened after all those years.

Maeve was thrilled when she came back. But not Danny. He didn’t want her mother close to Maeve. What was his guarantee that she will not leave them again? He didn’t wish Maeve to suffer again.

Danny did not immediately forgive his mom until Maeve told him to ‘grow up.’ If I were in Danny’s situation, and I’d see a mom whom I could not even remember for she left at a very young age, a mom whom I heard only from stories, and the main reason why I lived a miserable life, would I forgive her that easily? I am not sure.

This novel left me grieving and annoyed at the same time. Most of the characters are annoying in their way, but that’s reality. People are annoying in their own ways. How can I not hate Elna, the mother who left her children so she could serve the poor in India? Isn’t that self-centered? How can I not hate Andrea for being such a wicked step-mom? How can I not hate Cyril for not defending his kids from Andrea when he was still alive? How can I not hate Celeste, Danny’s wife who hated him for always visiting Maeve, when Maeve was old and alone in her life? And how can I not hate Maeve when she quickly forgave their selfish mother?

Maeve and Danny traditionally visited the Dutch House year after year, parking their car a few meters away from the house, smoking and reminiscing days that have gone past. There are things in life that we cannot move on from. For Maeve and Danny, it was the Dutch House. It remained forever with them.

No matter how I hated the characters, I would still say this is a good read because the writing was compelling. The characters were so real; the storytelling was vivid. The narration hopped from different timelines, but that wasn’t a problem for me.

I heard that Tom Hanks is the narrator of the audio book, that makes this even more interesting.

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