The Dutch House

Written by Ann Patchett
Review by Elicia Parkinson

At the end of World War II, Cyril Conroy buys the Dutch House, a large, glass house on the outskirts of Philadelphia formerly owned by the VanHoebeeks, whose portraits still grace the walls. The pressure of such an extravagant home is too much for Cyril’s wife, Elna, who leaves the house behind—along with her husband and their two young children, Danny and Maeve. Left alone to deal with their father’s emotionless connection, the two children come to depend on each other, a bond which is only strengthened by the arrival of Andrea, their new stepmother, and her two young daughters.

Much like in a fairy tale, when Cyril dies young and suddenly, Andrea refuses to allow Danny and Maeve to continue living in the Dutch House. Their love for their former home and their antipathy towards their stepmother gives the Conroy siblings ample reason to continue to visit the Dutch House in secret, observing the activities through the glass windows of their former home from the safety of their car.

The story, which spans five decades, is a warm, charming, and sometimes heartbreaking story of the friendship and strains that can exist between two siblings who are brought closer together in the face of misfortune. It’s told from the perspective of the youngest child, Danny, and readers will come to love him and his sister, Maeve, and the Dutch House itself, which remains, throughout the story, a silent character of its own.

Fans of Ann Patchett will not be disappointed in her new novel about the unwavering adoration between Danny and Maeve, and the trials they are forced to overcome together. Highly recommended.