Book Review: The Dutch House
By Alexis Mercer
One of the aspects of reading fiction novels I enjoy most is how each plot line, character, and story is in one way or another woven into my mind.
Books have the power to take the reader to places she has never been; get to know characters who may be fictional, but are born from a living, breathing, human’s creative mind and therefore hold in them pieces of soul and breath; teach lessons; or invoke raw emotions. Every once in a while a book does all of those things.
The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett, is a novel that though I read quickly to find out what would happen to the main characters Danny and Maeve, has slowly settled into my mind bit by bit, carefully chosen word by carefully chosen word.
It is not a happy story. It is quite tragic actually. Many times I found my mind screaming “just knock it OFF and get your shit together.” But perhaps that is what made the characters so real and the story so compelling.
Like many of Patchett’s novels, this is a tale of intricate emotions, complex characters and a story line that keeps the reader invested until the last word – and then some.
Cyril Conroy is a man who built himself up from nothing with a real estate investment that turned into an empire. With his newfound fortune, Cyril buys a house outside of Philadelphia that sits on a large amount of land with huge windows and detailed Dutch woodwork throughout to surprise his wife. Only she hates the house.
Danny, the narrator, and his older sister Maeve grow up in the Dutch House with a stepmother and their father Cyril after their mother’s departure. It is when the siblings are kicked out of the house that the two are thrown into a poverty they never knew and how they deal with their circumstances for the remainder of their lives.
Themes of forgiveness, fortitude, the meaning of family, and love all find their way to the surface of this novel. From the surface, though, they dig themselves deep into the reader’s mind – tumble around, linger, and ask to be considered in a new way.
Books are just printed words in a certain order. But the best books, like The Dutch House, are printed words that come alive in the reader’s mind and change her forever.
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