Review of The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Thanks to my reading friend Elyse who recommends the BEST books! This book was narrated by Elyse’s high school admirer, “Tommy” Hanks.

Many reviews have already been written on the Dutch House, so I won’t rehash what everyone else has already said. I only want to touch on one element, the symbolism of the house as wealth, verses love.


Cyril wanted the love of his wife Elna, so he gave her the Dutch House, but she despised the ostentation the house represented and wanted to serve the poor.

If only Mother hadn’t gone; perhaps Maeve wouldn’t have gotten sick, Cyril wouldn’t have been hoodwinked by Andrea; Danny could have taken over his father’s business (the love of buildings) which Danny loved instead of being made to study medicine out of spite.

Elna first moved into Maeve’s house to nurse her, and then into the Dutch House to nurse Andrea. She made remarks to the effect that she was paying for her mistakes, a very Catholic idea. However, after Andrea’s death Mother stayed on at the Dutch House, appointing herself as caretaker, apparently having lost the self-righteous attitude that compelled her to forsake her family and leave the opulent mansion.

Danny wanted a way to thank Maeve for all the work she did for his business, when she refused to cash the checks he made out to her. Danny bought the small rental house where Maeve lived and gave her the deed. This she accepted with magnanimous gratitude.

The children, Maeve and Danny, wanted the love of their mother and father, but grew to despise the house when it became a symbol of Andrea’s hatred toward them

Andrea wanted the Dutch House, and feigned love to get it.

Andrea sweetly and manipulatively handed out invectives like lunch money to kids heading to school. Sometimes Andrea lost her temper and hurled the hatred. Didn’t Andrea know that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones?

Norma was forced into taking Maeve’s bedroom in the house, and she felt guilty about it. Norma loved Maeve and was still apologizing as an adult, for taking her room and for taking their house.

Only in the end is this juxtaposition of wealth and love resolved in Danny’s daughter. She fulfills her childhood dream of becoming an actress, falls in love with the Dutch House, and buys it from Norma. The book culminates in a lavish party at the house, even summoning the spirit of Maeve, and a tender father-daughter moment.