- Book: The Dutch House
- Location: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
- Author: Ann Patchett
For those of you who know the work of Ann Patchett, it will be no surprise that this is an excellent read. For anyone unfamiliar with her work, then this is a good place to start.
Young siblings Maeve and Danny grow up in relatively impecunious circumstances. One day their father, who has found his way into property development and management, acquires the eponymous Dutch House of the title. It was the creation of the VanHoebeek family (pronounced Van Who-bake) in the early part of the 20th Century and their father has now bought up the whole house lock, stock and barrel and it is full of their possessions. This spontaneous purchase however destabilises the marital relationship and soon Mum has left this new family home, leaving Maeve and Danny in the care of their father. What comes next forms the crux of the story.
This is very much a story of two people growing into adulthood, forging their way, forming relationships and dealing with childhood events and experiences. It is also about memory and how we can layer our own interpretation over the actual facts and come to regard personal history in a very different light. People do this in order to survive emotionally and they become adept at reframing traumatic happenings in order to ward off depression and overwhelming feelings.
This is a beautifully written and mesmerising novel that feels like an American family epic. Highly recommended.
The edition that we read is a Waterstones special edition and is beautifully executed. It has Delft sprayed edges and at the back the author talks about how she worked to produce the cover and obtained the image of the young woman, a perfect illustration of how she saw Maeve at one stage of her life, immortalised in the house in a painting.