A STORY OF TWO SIBLINGS, THEIR CHILDHOOD HOME, AND A PAST THAT THEY CAN’T LET GO.
Like swallows, like salmon, we were the helpless captives of our migratory patterns. We pretended that what we had lost was the house, not our mother, not our father. We pretended that what we had lost had been taken from us by the person who still lived inside.
I have been lucky to read some wonderful books this year and I seem to be forever saying, I think I have found my new favourite read of the year so far. Well I am about to say it again. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett is stunning, the writing so exquisite, the story so splendid, that it will join the likes of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and Tin Man by Sarah Winman as one of my all time favourite reads! I have to send my heartfelt thanks out to the my fellow members of the Cardiff Waterstones reading group for selecting this book as our July read, because otherwise I might not have picked it up off the shelf.
It’s a story about family, loss, love, sacrifice and the places that play a formative part in our lives. The moments that root us to a spot we can’t move on from, forever attached to a place that is a symbol of both love and pain. The story is about a brother and sister whose life was once centred around The Dutch House, but even when forced by events to leave, they remained tied to it. Their lives move on, but they always seem drawn back to their childhood home. It’s not a story that features epic drama, though drama there is, because it is all more muted, for it’s their feelings and personal struggles that are at the centre of this tale. The drama is quiet, refined and always centred around everyday events and the moving relationship between the siblings. It is their bond and their sometimes suffocating connection to The Dutch House that is the strongest part of this book, along with the beauty of a simple tale, told with style and an intrinsic understanding of human emotion and the need to belong.
I felt an almost instant connection with both the writing and the story. A yearning to spend as much time as possible with the characters and a quiet sense of grief as I read the last pages, because it meant the journey with them was over. I felt an affinity to every single aspect of this book and that is rare. There are many books I have loved and adored, many I have enjoyed and others that I felt little connection to. The Dutch House is that rarest of reads, it is one I will treasure forever and which will linger in my minds eye for ever more.
About the author
Ann Patchett is the author of six novels, including Bel Canto, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction. She writes for the New York Times Magazine, Elle, GQ, the Financial Times, the Paris Review and Vogue. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.