The Dutch House by Ann Patchett: Audiobook Review

The much-anticipated new novel by Ann Patchett boasts an incredible celebrity narrator and we couldn’t get enough.

The Dutch House was written by Ann Patchett and narrated by Tom Hanks.

Anyone who appreciates historical fiction will absolutely love this book. There are moments the reader/listener witnesses the Dutch House in its glory days of the 1920s, the post-War years, Danny’s college years of the late 1960s and early 70s. It transports its audience through time. Avid readers of family drama that spans generations in one family, will also likely fall in love with The Dutch House.

More than happy or amused or incensed, Patchett’s novel was empathetic and reflective. It is one man’s contemplation on his own life and the special relationship he had with his older sister over the course of five decades.

Content & Storytelling

Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House well-deserves the hype and Tom Hanks’ rasp perfectly embodies the first-person narration of Danny Conroy. Patchett’s latest novel is the story of both a family and a house, and the way the two impact one another over the course of Danny’s life. This is a story about parental love and failure, broken and melted families, sibling love and support, bitterness and forgiveness, grief and loss. Ultimately, Danny’s story is an affirmation of family and the unique life we each lead.

There are so many things to say about Patchett’s sibling protagonists: Maeve and Danny Conroy. Patchett places their story in Danny’s voice looking back over their lives, and like his memories, the story jumps around from the time Danny is four until he is in late middle-age with adult children. As a story that spans Danny’s life (from the late 1940s to more-or-less today) The Dutch House includes the traumas and triumphs of childhood, coming-of-age tropes, the challenges of young adult life, professional success and the tricky act of balancing out childhood memories with other people’s versions of the same story. Patchett’s novel even contemplates what it would be like to have a saint— a truly canon-worthy individual—in the family. Set between New York and greater Philadelphia, The Dutch House paints the portrait of one family, rooted in poor, Irish Catholic Brooklyn, that ascends to great affluence, falls, then ascends once more; and it is well worth a listen.

Length & Pacing

From the first scene, Danny’s storytelling had me, and I was happily hooked to the end. If any portion of the novel lagged, it was the middle years; Danny’s late high school, college, and young-adult self annoyed me, as did his and Maeve’s obsession with the Dutch House. But, I think, these years were perhaps meant to irritate the reader/listener. Coming-of-age, especially in Danny’s circumstance, is a challenging experience in which all of us exasperate our elders, and it’s entirely possible that my annoyance is symptomatic of my age.

Narration & Writing

Tom Hanks is perfectly suited to narrate The Dutch House. His voice is both affable and intimate and he successfully brings Danny Conroy’s words to life. The audiobook was eloquent and personal, and Hanks’s voice made the novel’s heartbreaks and delights, and Patchett’s beautiful prose, all the more real.

Overall

This novel is a masterpiece and the audiobook is both charming and moving. Patchett’s prose in Tom Hanks’s voice makes the story of the Conroy family and the Dutch House poignantly memorable.


Official Description: From the New York Times best-selling author of Commonwealth and State of Wonder comes Ann Patchett’s most powerful novel to date: a richly moving story that explores the indelible bond between two siblings, the house of their childhood, and a past that will not let them go. The Dutch House is the story of a paradise lost, a tour de force that digs deeply into questions of inheritance, love, and forgiveness, of how we want to see ourselves, and of who we really are.

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.

The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.

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