“The Dutch House”
by Ann Patchett
Their mother’s disappearance cements an unbreakable connection between a pair of poor-little-rich-kid siblings. Like The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer or Life Among Giants by Bill Roorbach, this is a deeply pleasurable book about a big house and the family who lives in it.
Toward the end of World War II, real estate developer and landlord Cyril Conroy surprises his wife Elna with the keys to a mansion in the Elkins Park neighborhood of Philadelphia.
Elna, who had no idea how much money her husband had amassed and still thought they were poor, is appalled by the luxurious property, which comes fully furnished and complete with imposing portraits of its former owners (Dutch people named VanHoebeek) as well as a servant girl named Fluffy.
When her son Danny is 3 and daughter Maeve is 10, Elna’s antipathy for the place sends her on the lam—first occasionally, then permanently. This leaves the children with the household help and their rigid, chilly father, but the difficulties of the first year pale when a stepmother and stepsisters appear on the scene.
Then those problems are completely dwarfed by… (a subscription to the Jimplecute is required to continue reading this article).
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