The Dutch House

by Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett is a brilliant writer. Let’s just get that out of the way. I adore all the words that she writes. But this book was a little bit different for me. Not necessarily bad, but I’m being honest here and telling you that I feel the book is a “read” but not a “must read.” Does that make sense?

I was very engaged as I read the story. I felt bad for the kids in the parent department. I enjoyed exploring the many ideas here about motherhood. Could a mother leave her children in order to pursue what she felt was her calling? Should she? And then we look at the big-sister who played mom for years. And the step-mom. And the nannies. The many facets of motherhood that are scrutinized here bring to mind another novel which does a similar thing, Little Fires Everywhere. Both novels made me think extensively about the many shades of mothering.

The two main characters in The Dutch House are siblings and they have this thing they do when they are adults. They sit in the car, parked down the street from the house they lived in when it all went wrong. I love this. They have deep talks, they share real feelings, and they solve each other’s problems while sitting in the car. That part feels very realistic and believable to me.

There are some less than believable motivations in the story that did not sit right with me. On top of that, the resolution of the novel cannot be described as super satisfying. It’s not bad, but it’s not all that I hoped it might be. The story is still worth a read, I think, if only because the author does draw interesting characters and the words themselves are lovely. Ms Patchett could write a new version of the telephone book and the words would be lovely – and worth reading – even if the plot did not sparkle.

You can pick up your copy of The Dutch House here.

I highly recommend other books from Patchett; specifically: Bel Canto and State of Wonder.

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