CRITICS’ CORNER: Book Review – The Dutch House

Casey Creutz, Co-Editorial Director, Junior

The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett, is the latest addition to her ever-growing collection of award-nominated novels. Many of her works follow the relationships between members of broken families, and The Dutch House, originally published in 2019 and nominated for the Pulitzer in 2021, certainly fits that theme.

This book follows two siblings, Maeve and Danny, and their codependency through decades of tumultuous childhood into adulthood. I read Commonwealth a couple of summers ago and was instantly struck by the concise and simple form of Patchett’s writing and how potent her characters are. This book is titled after the imposing and grand home the siblings grow up in. The house, and the imposing Dutch oil portraits of its original inhabitants serve as a symbol for wealth, life and lineage and convey central themes throughout the novel.

The novel is a Cinderella story of sorts, starting with these siblings growing up shrouded in wealth and privilege, and then being thrown out into the world by their evil stepmother. The siblings are intelligent, self-sufficient, and completely devoted to one another, but the author’s portrayal of them is far from sympathetic despite the cruel circumstances they face throughout the book. While definitely not a fun read, novel-lovers will definitely find themselves invested in the stories of Maeve and Danny, and even those of their parents, step-family, and help.

The book starts slowly, but the climax is definitely worth struggling through the first couple chapters.

Patchett’s writing also has the ability to evoke a lot of emotion, in this book, mostly anger and resentment. Lovers of novels know that a good novel is able to move through time with ease, and Patchett, in the two works that I’ve read so far, is more than capable of a good novel. I would recommend this book to people looking for a more sophisticated read, and to fans of “classic” American novels.