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Book Review of' "The Dutch House" by Ann Patchett

The Dutch HouseThe Dutch House by Ann Patchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Since I have been reading a lot of memoirs over the past few years, I have been, seemingly, focused on relationships, particularly how family relationships serve or fail to show caring and /or protect(?) the person writing the story.

The narrator of "The Dutch House" is a man (Tom Hanks does a delightful Audible Book performance) although the author, Ann Patchett is not. Tom Hanks does a commendable job of making the male and female characters distinguishable not by employing any "female" voice (a falsetto for example?) which I very much enjoyed and marveled at. He used virtually the same voice tone throughout for both the main narrator and his sister. The author's dialogue provided the distinguishment in who was speaking. So subtle and so grand.

The story is award-winning in its scope and complexity, as well as in its wonderful story-telling. Lots of dialogue, and time travel in the lives of the characters, and the very interesting way in which philosophy and psychology (mostly psychology) are woven through the story. And it also plays out a little like a delicious mystery novel.

And all the 'screens' of family configuration are amazing and MUST be examined in some detail to see how they fit in with the rest of the larger story.

So, instead of a slightly morose story about a woman who abandons her young children and how they never have a decent life as a result of the trauma, etc., you have a story of a colony of caregivers and misanthropes, and because the misanthropes are not the bosses, the caring, loving characters successfully conspire to support the life of the boy at the centre, and his diabetic sister, so that eventually, the good really does implode and neutralize (adopt even-- you have to read this) the less kind characters.

I am sure that this book is a very good read, but I really really loved Tom Hanks reading it to me.

If you have ever wished you could go back to your own childhood or even see what your most memorable family home looks like now, etc., you will love how Patchett allows the characters to do that. And sometimes "happy endings" are formulaic and quite disappointing-- but this happy ending is weird and wonderful.


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