Have you ever read a book and loved it but when someone asks you why you love the book, you try to list out all the things but then you can’t and you get lost in a maze of your own thoughts that are trying to put a finger on it? I have. Very recently. And that book, for me, is Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House.
Ann Patchett is a co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, a fact that is probably unrelated and doesn’t need mentioning here. But as a bookworm, for me, the beauty in Patchett’s writing is directly proportional to the fact that she works around books. This is my first Ann Patchett book, even though I’ve heard scores of people raving about her writing before this one. So when I saw this in the library, I just had to pick it up.
The Dutch House is the story of how siblings Danny and Maeve Conroy struggle to come to terms with their situation when their mother leaves and their father marries Andrea, a woman who has her eye on financial security. The center of the entire drama is the Dutch House, which they have admired and found themselves mulling over in the strangest of ways. The familiarity, the unfairness, the mind and power games – they have to deal with it all. Amidst all this, they have to deal with the past, each looking at it in a wholly different way.
What happens when time passes by and the two siblings keep going back to sit in their car outside the Dutch house and talk? What happens when the past and the future get mixed up in an unsettling cocktail of emotions? Will Danny be able to forgive his mother for leaving? Will Maeve be able to forgive Andrea for done what she did? Will the siblings find peace?
What I loved most about The Dutch House is the fact that none of the characters in there are perfect. Every character annoys you at one point or another, forcing you to keep weighing every pro and con as you further read the story. Some can be plain mean, some selfish, some poke their noses into business that is clearly not theirs, and some even make decisions that are clearly not theirs to make!
Despite this – or is it because of this? I don’t know! – the entirety of this story is a beautiful lesson in handling human frailties. It doesn’t teach you, per se, but tells you as way of example that we make mistakes sometimes – big ones at that – and we deserve to be given the benefit of doubt, even if it is from ourselves. We shouldn’t be carrying the burdens of our past throughout our lives. It’s too great a tragedy to impose on ourselves!
Another beautiful thing about this book is that it, in no certain words, lists out the reasons behind a person’s attitude and gives us everything for us to decide if you like that character. And if you don’t like that character, you’ll at least understand why they did what they did or sympathize with them if not agree with them. It is this intricate style of storytelling that reels you in and makes you stay put. At the end of it all, you’ll want to learn more about forgiveness and how the world benefits from it.
The Dutch House has a story that is well-paced in my opinion and it has layers that you probably didn’t think could kick you in the gut like they do. It caters to the most basic of your human emotions and will seem simple, but be prepared for that punch in the gut. Because if you let your guard down for one second, you’ll be down before you can say, “Ouch!”
I’m so glad I introduced myself to the brilliant world of Ann Patchett’s writing. Now that I’ve read and understood her (at least I’d like to think so), I can’t wait to go and read more of her work. It fills me with glee to know that there’s so much good reading waiting for me out there. And I don’t mind the punches one bit!
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Until next time, keep reading and add melodrama to your life. 🙂