29 comments on “The Dutch House by Ann Patchett | Book Review

  1. Great review! The character arcs of Andrea and Elna were so strange, especially Elna’s – I found it unsettling that Patchett seems to be saying “Elna was ‘saintlike’ so of course her children should let her off the hook.” And, like you said, I thought that Danny’s narration was meant to highlight his obliviousness to the labor of the women in his life…but the point would have been better made with a different, more observant narrator! Glad that the prose was at least pleasant enough!

  2. Ah, I’m sorry you didn’t get along with this one at all. I can definitely see the points you are making, but I also think a lot of interpretation is up to each reader – which is probably why ratings span the whole spectrum from 1 to 5 stars. To me Danny was definitely a limited character and one of the main points was that we see all the other characters through his eyes, which is clearly not objective. Also, despite all of his limitations Danny felt utterly real to me, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much. Anyway, I enjoyed reading your review, it is always interesting to read views from people who have a completely different view!

    • It definitely seems like this is a polarising one, so perhaps it comes down to whether or not the reader gels with Patchett’s style. I’m glad you got more from it than I did though! 😊

  3. Great review! 100% agree with you on this one. I like how you looked into what happened to Andrea—your comment on how “it’s nothing short of tasteless” made me snort. Brutal but true, because I did think it’s meant to be poetic justice. I was also pretty disappointed at how Danny’s wife was at odds with Maeve because she needed a scapegoat for her anger at Danny, which would’ve been an interesting development had it been explored in more detail.

  4. I obviously agree with all your points here – and had many of the same criticisms. Another thing that for me did not work was the comparison to Mother Teresa, who by all accounts was actually a pretty horrible person. In a way I actually wondered if maybe that was Patchett’s subtle point? Being saintly is more self-serving than anything? I remain baffled by the largely super positive reception of this book.

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  6. This was a middling book for me, but I liked it more than you did – I found the characterisation interesting and complex. For me, the major problem was the essential familiarity of its themes – I didn’t feel like it was bringing anything especially new to the table. Patchett is a very versatile writer, so I’d urge you to try something else by her – State of Wonder is my go-to recommendation, and VERY different from this one.

      • I totally agree that it offered nothing new to well worn themes – especially frustrating given how many tropes it employed. And yeah, I suspect that’s what she was going for with the narrative voice, but I wish she’d explored the idea with some depth. Perhaps Danny could have come to recognise his sister’s sacrifices, or it could have been a dual narrative so we saw things from her perspective as well.

        Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed it more than I did! 😊

    • Thanks! I’ve seen increasingly mixed things but in general, it’s had very positive reception, so there’s every chance you’ll get on better with it than I did. I’ll keep an eye out for your thoughts! 😊

  7. i read this book not too long ago and have zero recollection of the fact that it was set post-WWII lol. i mightve just forgotten since this wasnt a super memorable read for me, but wow i dont at all remember anything of that time period being mentioned, so definitely agree about the setting being not being particularly well developed 🤔

  8. “Perhaps this was a deliberate attempt to criticise how oblivious men are to the sacrifices women make to ease their lives, but if so, I shouldn’t have to reach to make that conclusion.” YES. That was honestly my main issue with this book, and I liked pieces of it enough to think that it could have been a much more successful story if Patchett had written it from the perspective of a character who could have given the reader more concrete commentary to dig into. Sorry to see it was a slog for you as well! Great review. 🙂

  9. I adore Ann Patchett but haven’t read this one yet. It was so interesting to read your review (esp. of the female characters) – seems like people have lots of different opinions on this one!

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  11. This is a great review! I think I enjoyed this one a lot more simply because I love Patchett and her writing and went into it with that bias in her favour. If you haven’t read anything else by her, I hope this doesn’t turn you off of her work entirely because it’s far from her strongest. I appreciate your perspective on the mother in particular because I never felt like we were expected to forgive her or even to see her as particularly “good”. To me, she was just as selfish a character as any of the rest of them, just in a different way. I do really wish that Danny’s wife had been a more well-rounded character. There was so much potential for her to add a new perspective.

    • Thank you! Yes, I think several of the book’s issues could have been rectified if she’d included another perspective. A dual narrative told by Danny and Maeve could have been much more interesting, and would have allowed her to explore certain ideas in much greater depth.

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