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book review historical fiction

Book Review: The Dutch House

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. 

Published September 24th 2019 by Harper

What did I think?

I love a long family saga and this one ended way too soon for me. I wanted to know what would happen to the next generation.

I think one of the reasons it resonated with me was the storybook atmosphere of the house, the evil stepmother, and how terrible things just kept happening. The characters in the story had a lot to deal with and they did the best they could again and again.

There’s a lot to unpack here for a discussion, the trend after WW2 to buy that big house outside the city, the dysfunctional family dynamics caused by divorce, what does forgiveness look like in real life?

The Dutch House by Ann Pratchett turned out to be the exact book I needed to break me out of a weird reading funk. I was reading, but nothing was “amazing” and for me that’s rare. I saw this book on the seven day shelf of the library and picked it up. It’s not really new, no one cared whether I read it, and most of all I was under no obligation to review it at all. Those factors along with the fact that it’s also a great story leaves me writing this review today.

If you like audio books, Tom Hanks reads this book, and I found the sample compelling. If I do a re-read it’ll be a audible book for sure.

By Jenny Naughton

JENNY NAUGHTON and her husband share their 1930's era Chicago home with four sons and a daughter. A voracious reader, Jen reviews books before their release for dozens of publishers on her page: Windy City Reader. Jen also blogs (on WordPress!) about classical, mostly secular, home education at Good Enough Homeschool.
In her spare time, she runs an online book club for teens and helps other home educating family match their kids with the perfect book for them.
You can find Jen misbehaving on social media on
Twitter: @jennynau10

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