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Stories in Print: The Dutch House

Updated: Aug 11, 2021

The Dutch House

By Ann Patchett

Hardcover, First Edition, Deckle Edge, 337 pages

Published September 24th 2019 by Harper

A good friend of mine has described her favorite books as ones that create an entire world. I didn't know it until she shared, but that's what I love too. Books with texture and warmth like a hug from a familiar friend, those ones stay with me. Incidentally, the books that stand out could be seen by some as "boring" but that's what I like about them. Kind of like life, which on a daily basis can be kind of repetitive and boring. But in the "boring" is beauty, complexity, and love.

The Dutch House is a sweeping story that spans several decades and generations. I listened to the audiobook back in January, part of a new-year challenge to read more books. It stuck out to me because it was available immediately at the library, and was narrated by Tom Hanks. His engaging and often funny narration felt like my grandpa telling a story.

The Dutch House was parts sad, sweet, and reflective. Decades of a family told by the youngest member trying to make sense of it all imparted a familiar struggle of being human, and being part of something which one cannot control. The narrative shows the deep relationship between a brother and a sister, one only the two of them could really understand, a relationship each values beyond all others.

The Dutch House itself is practically a separate character, which I also loved. Giving inanimate objects character and interaction with the humans of the story ranks high in my list of things I love about books.

In my homeschool novel-writing classes, I teach the NaNoWriMo model of writing fiction, which utilizes a rollercoaster image to tell the story. A piece of writing "should" follow a certain scope of the storytelling, like a rollercoaster which saves the biggest thrill for the end. But I tend to prefer the more easy-going coasters in life and at theme parks, the rides which allow one to observe and feel their environment fully and get used to living in it for a while. That's kind of what The Dutch House does.

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Ann Patchett is one of my favorite authors, in terms of word-crafting, though I am often disappointed by her endings. I think Bel Canto is her best work. She begins with an implausible situation and builds it into such a believable world full of beauty and goodness that it’s rather jarring when it ends!

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