A House Purchase Intended to Symbolize a Family’s Rise Results in its Fall in Ann Patchett’s Latest Novel
Nashville’s Parnassus Books co-owner and bestselling author Ann Patchett’s latest novel, The Dutch House (Sept. 24), drops readers into a sprawling mansion full of strained family connections. As World War II comes to an end, Cyril Conroy catapults his family from poverty to enormous wealth as he builds his real estate empire. To celebrate his success, he purchases the Dutch House, an opulent 1920s estate in the Philadelphia suburbs, as a surprise for his wife Elna, setting the unraveling of his family into motion. Complete with life-size portraits of the original owners (the Dutch VanHoebeek family), a ballroom and household staff, The Dutch House overwhelms Elna so much that she abandons her husband, her 10-year-old daughter, Maeve, and 3-year-old son, Danny, to serve the poor in India.
In dark fairy tale fashion, when stepmother Andrea arrives with her two daughters, it is clear that she loves The Dutch House but not her stepchildren. She banishes Danny and Maeve after Cyril’s sudden death, and the siblings must rely on each other as they find themselves thrown back into poverty. The house itself becomes a character that looms large, affecting the lives of all of its inhabitants in this decade-spanning story full of one family’s dysfunctional relationships and stolen inheritances. Written in her legendary prose, Patchett delivers a story of banished and bonded siblings navigating the complex and ever-changing layers of love and forgiveness, while simultaneously pushing readers to analyze the stories we tell ourselves about our own lives.