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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Book Review: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

I love that my new book club reads brand-new still in hardcover books. I get to read books that aren't published by my employer, and are big in the zeitgeist. This one made me a tad nervous as the one other Patchett novel I'd tried to read (Bel Canto, for my book club in Charlotte), I'd utterly failed. Didn't even get to page 20. I've read and loved I think all of Ms. Patchett's nonfiction, but I wondered if maybe I was destined to only like her nonfiction and to not connect at all with her fiction.

And the word "connect" is interesting here because while I liked the book, I couldn't truly connect with any of the characters. There was a distance and I felt like I was being held at arm's length throughout the book. But once I got into the book, got somewhat used to the jumping around in time (which pretty much stayed confusing), and mostly could remember who characters were when there were big gaps between their appearances, I started cruising. I read the second half of the book much faster than the first half. And while I enjoyed it, and boy was there a heck of a lot to talk about at book club from the book (siblings, step-parents, saints, Catholicism, duty, repeating the past), I said at the start of the discussion that there was no plot. A few people seemed annoyed I said that, but they also didn't refute me.

Maeve and Danny's father remarries Andrea, and then he dies. And after a while Andrea kicks Danny out of the house and he has to go live with Andrea (who is older.) He goes to law school but always wanted to own real estate like his father so that's what he does. He marries and has a couple of kids. He and Maeve periodically go back to the house they grew up in, The titular Dutch House, and park on the curb, and bitch about their step-mother. I'm sorry--I still see no plot. That's okay. Not every book has to have one, and this one instead very much was about character development and relationships. But if you prefer plot-driven novels, this book might not work for you.

I did enjoy it. I'm glad I finally read and liked a Patchett novel. But it felt a bit lackluster in the overall. Nothing really blew me away. It's not sticking with me long-term. I enjoyed the discussion very much. But I won't be seeking out other novels of hers, at least not in the short-term.

I bought this book at Browseabout Books in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware, an independent bookstore.

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