The Dutch House is one of those curious books that really left an impact on me, whilst not possessing any major twists or action. I think the reason why it sticks in my mind is due to the way Patchett explores family dynamics: the strengths and weakness of relationships, the reaction of characters to opposing personalities and the shift in emotions as time heals at a different pace for each character.
Told from Danny’s perspective, we learn of the complex nature of his childhood and his later years. The younger years are told to us as memories, as he reflects as an adult, and offer both an insight on how he felt as a child and how he feels looking back on the events. This style worked perfectly as it intensified when his feelings matched in both past and present, creating a strong, surge of emotions; whilst also highlighting if his reaction had changed over years, which gave depth to his character, allowing me to feel as if I had known him for years.
Danny and his sister; Maeve, were at different ages when their mother abandoned their family, so it’s not surprising that they have different opinions on the matter. When their father brings home Andrea, both are united in their dislike for the woman. Even as youngsters, it’s clear they both could sense the danger this woman presented to their future. Not surprisingly, Andrea tears their lives apart and leaves the two of them fending for themselves at a young age.
Whilst anyone would be bitter and resent what had happened, Patchett focuses more on the strong bond that these two siblings forge over the coming years.
Time has been a great healer for Danny, but his sister seems unable to let go of her anger and shock of what happened to them and continues to lurk outside the Dutch House, where they once lived.
The appearance of a long lost character in present time, shakes the very foundations of the siblings’ relationship and sees Danny expressing the more negative emotions; whilst Maeve, in contrast, is the happiest we’ve ever seen her.
This story is for all the readers out there that love to really “know” their characters. Patchett explored family dynamics in a way that blew my mind, she has weaved so many topics into this tale, and explores each of the characters’ emotions in impeccable detail.
The Dutch House is out now in hardback and eBook versions from Bloomsbury, with the paperback version coming out in April.
Until next time, Chloé x