From the queen of intelligent and complex family sagas comes our October selection The Dutch House. Told with Ann Patchett's impressive blend of compassion and wit, the novel 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.
At the centre of the story is a house (itself as much a character as any of the humans in the novel) purchased by the self-made real estate magnate, Cyril Conroy, at the end of WWII. Told from the perspective of Cryil's son Danny, the story follows the fifty years following the purchase and reveals the ways the house has shaped the lives of those who have called it home. It's a meditation on memory and its reliability - whether we can only ever view the past through the prism of the present.
This is one of those books you don't realise has a complete hold of you until you're still awake after midnight finishing it. Such is Patchett's skill to write deceptively simple prose that glides along with such clarity that you are unaware of your intense immersion in the story. A spellbinding read and we reckon her best yet!
A few links if you want to go deeper...
- The Guardian interviews Ann Patchett and talks grief, memory and fairytales.
- A solid NY Times review which explores the fairy tale tropes used in novel.
- The Guardian's review of The Dutch House by Elizabeth Lowry.
- Listen to a quick interview with Ann Patchett on NPR.
- A longer audio interview on WNYC.
- This Washington Post review claims The Dutch House is a thriller.