Tuesday, 2 June 2020

The Dutch House. (Mindscape Reviews)

Hi Readers! I recently read ‘The Dutch House’ by Ann Patchett. Now, this book is rated at 4.17/5 on Goodreads. Also, it is recommended in every article that gives stellar book recommendations. It is historical fiction post WWII. The author Ann Pachett’s books are always bestsellers. All these four criteria are as best as it can come. I need all these areas to decide if I should buy or read a book. And yet, despite checking all these areas, ‘The Dutch House’ was a disappointment. Here’s the autopsy.



The Dutch House is the story of two siblings Maeve & Danny Conroy written across five decades. We see a distant mother who leaves them when they both are still kids. We see an absent father who keeps to himself. We see Fluffy, the nanny; Sandy, the housekeeper & Jocelyn, the cook. All three of them are more parents to them than their real parents.

To brief it, Maeve & Danny grow up in the Dutch House. It becomes the House from which their mother leaves. It becomes the House in which Andrea, their stepmother comes in with two of her children. It becomes the house from which Andrea throws out Maeve & Danny when their father dies. And ever since then, it becomes a part of them. Even after twenty years, Maeve & Danny meet to have deep conversations while sitting in a car in front to the House, re-visiting their past time & again.


The narrator in the story is Danny Conroy, which was such a poor choice. Throughout the novel, Danny comes off as self-absorbed, irrational, ambitionless & to a certain extent just so mortal. He claims he is writing the novel for his sister Maeve who is the only person he has. But, ironically, he only tells his own life tale, ignoring Maeve completely. He talks about his education & how he became a doctor & then stopped being a doctor. He talks about his marriage to Celeste. He talks about his kids, May & Kevin. He mesmerises his love for his absent father. Danny Conroy is as drag as a character as they come.

Maeve Conroy deserved better. In her childhood, we see how much of a brilliant character she could have been. She is brilliant, tall & intimidating. The author built so much scope for Maeve and never ended up using it. There are no efforts taken on her character! She studies maths, becomes an accountant & then work at a frozen vegetable shop forever. She has no relationships to such an extent that we don’t even know sexual identity! She is on the cover page of the book & yet she isn’t even the highlight of the novel because we got Danny mansplaining everything in a crude manner. That really bugged me. Apart from being overshadowed by Danny, she is also overshadowed by her mother (Elna Conroy.)

As for their mother, Elna Conroy, such a poorly portrayed character. If the author wanted to show her as a saint, she has failed miserably. Elna is the most pathetic character in the novel. Sometimes, I feel she is worse than their absent father, Cyril Conroy. Cyril, though absent toward his children, did little things for them. He took a divorce from an unstable wife who hated the Dutch House. He married someone who loved the Dutch House. He mentored Danny in the real estate business in a very subtle manner. In his own way, he was the good enough attempt in the story.

As for the title of the novel, there were so few things surrounding the Dutch House. There could have been a lot of scope on that as well.


To be completely honest, reading this novel felt like reading a very dull first draft from an amateur debut novelist. We have a deluded robot of a narrator, reprehensible characters which we cannot get in the mindset of, dull story line & predictable end; all of which make a complete disappointment to the historical fiction genre. When I read it halfway, I knew it would not get better, because it was just so plain & dull to read. I think the author tried to make an impression with the Bildungsroman attempt of writing, but it has failed for me. Now that I read the book, here I am thinking, what was the point of it?

Was it about not being stuck in the past?

Was it standing up for yourself?

Was it about forgiveness?

Was it about maturity?

Was it about hope?

Because if it were any of this, the opposite of it has happened in the book.

This time I did a lot of research before actually buying the books & now one out of five has already failed me. I rated this book at 2/5 on Goodreads. Here’s to hoping the rest do better! If you have read & liked this book, please tell me what is it you liked in the comments below!

Until next time,

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