Book Club Reflection: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

4 May

One of my book clubs recently elected to read a book I read and enjoyed about a year ago, The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. I was delighted to talk more about this wonderful book. I’m usually a bit quieter during discussions of books I read so long ago, but as this was the first book my ready buddy and I discussed, I have a lot of recollection of the details of this book and was able to be a bigger part of the discussion.

The titular house has a lot of personality. It’s always described as a house, never a home to Danny or Maeve. The house seems very out of place in Pennsylvania. Some readers described it as a house in one of those village museums where houses are moved there and many rooms blocked off to stay frozen in time. Parts of it never advanced and it seemed odd that there were belongings of the previous owners. When Cyril and Elna moved in, they didn’t bring their own things. Andrea and her girls didn’t either. The house was a bit out of place in that it was made of stucco, like many houses in California, and had a clear passage from front to back like homes in the south before air conditioning.

Siblings with an age gap like Danny and Maeve sometimes feel like they grew up in different families because the people who raised them have changed so much in that time. Maeve never had kids of her own and since she had a mother and Danny did not, she was more of Danny’s mother. She grew up before her time and lost a lot of her childhood to raise Danny. Between Maeve, Jocelyn, Sandy, and Fluffy, Danny almost had a complete mother. We wondered if Elna felt she was leaving her children with a better mother figure in the staff than she could provide herself. Many of our readers wanted to learn more about Elna than what was in the book. They wanted to see how she grew up and how she could become someone who would abandon her children. Many felt that nothing about her was relatable. While Andrea was the complete opposite of her in many ways, her disruptive actions and spitefulness were just as hard to understand.

One reader described this as a glum book with a lot of unhappy people. Another said that there were a lot of fairy-tale-like elements to it. Andrea was a wicked stepmother, there was the expected missing parent in Elna as well. In many ways, Cyril must have felt like a knight in shining armor when he ‘rescued’ Elna from the convent before she took her vows. Maybe Elna didn’t want to be rescued.

It seems this group has picked another book I already ready for the next title so I’m excited to sit in and listen again. It’s fun to revisit old reads with a book club. Until next time, write on.

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2 Responses to “Book Club Reflection: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett”

  1. Rae Longest May 6, 2021 at 2:55 PM #

    It took me two tries, but I too enjoyed The Dutch House.


    • Sam May 6, 2021 at 9:54 PM #

      I’m glad you ended up enjoying it eventually! I’m a big Patchett fan. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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