WellRead’s October 2019 selection was The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. Told with the author’s impressive blend of compassion and wit, The Dutch House spans five decades and tells a story of family, betrayal, success, greed, love, responsibility, sacrifice and, ultimately, forgiveness. Sounds like a daytime movie but reads like the most sophisticated and intimate examination of a flawed family and the ties that keep them whole and hold them back.
Use these discussion questions to engage with the book further, whether in a book club with friends, or just on your own as you digest the story.
Reading questions for The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
- The characters in the book seem to be living in response to the Dutch House (trying to escape it, attain it or sitting in cars outside of it) and it’s these responses that define the course of their lives. What is it about the house and the grip it has on those who have called it home?
- The book has been described as a dark fairy tale and there are certainly some classic tropes used throughout it (motherless children, a wicked stepmother, the bright castle). Did you pick up on these and why do you think Patchett constructed the story this way?
- “But we overlay the present onto the past. We look back through the lens of what we know now, so we're not seeing it as the people we were, we're seeing it as the people we are, and that means the past has been radically altered.” Do you agree with Danny that it’s impossible to see the past as it actually was?
- Danny and Maeve have to be the best literary siblings since Franny and Zooey. Was it surviving their family’s disintegration that made their bond so tight? And how did this bond affect the other relationships in their lives?
- Self-determination is a big theme in the novel. How do you think one cultivates it?
- We need to talk about Elna. Go!
- In many ways this book shows just how difficult it is to know a family and their history and the truth of the relationships within it. Did it make you consider your own family’s elusiveness? Reckon there’s a book in it?
Please note, these questions were written and distributed in October, 2019