The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
I really couldn’t put this down, which is saying a lot in a book that’s essentially a domestic drama. I was fascinated by the structure–it covers nearly a whole lifetime but without feeling rushed or diffuse. There is a definite telling, a consistent narrator who filters as he recalls, and a lightly drawn occasion for telling. The narrator dips in and out of timeframes as needed to tell his story, and it is never jarring or confusing.
The house ties it all together, something that resonates on multiple levels throughout the book. (What is home?) We have Danny Conroy and his sister, Maeve; their mother, Elna, who leaves when Danny is young; and Andrea, the cruel woman their father subsequently marries. Plus the unforgettable Fluffy (the nanny), and Sandy and Jocelyn, the cook and housekeeper.
The story is essentially of growing up, of the reasons for choosing a path in life, dwelling on past hurts and moving on, the inexplicable choices some people make, the ways we are doomed to repeat, or flee, the mistakes of our parents. And the way a house can contain all that.
With special thanks to Jonathan for getting me a delightfully inscribed and signed copy of this beauty.