The dutch house reviews: Patchett revisits the concerns of past works, including the Commonwealth (changing family life plates after divorce; tying of siblings; forgiveness) and Run in his eighth novel (the absent mother, the creation of family). The “Dutch house” in a wealthy Philadelphia suburb is the site of Cyril Conroy’s failed first marriage to Elna, a woman who flees the home’s ornate excesses. It is also the location of Cyril’s second, disastrous marriage to Andrea, a cruel stepmother who deprives his children of their inheritance after his death.
It is, above all, the location of narrator Danny Conroy’s treasured conversations with his elder sister, Maeve. Following Elna’s willful departure, Cyril’s sudden heart attack, and Andrea’s dismissal, the now-grown siblings make a habit of parking on their old street with a view of their former home to reminisce and plan their future.
Danny’s love for his sister—her beauty, her ferocious intelligence, her caretaking of her brother, her general kindness and decency—grows and calcifies in these sessions, which they conduct for the majority of their lives together—grows and calcifies until it is greater than any love in his life. This type of love, it turns out, is reserved for Maeve’s absent mother.