Layer by layer we learn more and more about the families that inhabit and are drawn back to the Dutch House. This gorgeous story was one I could not stop listening to until the bitter sweet conclusion.
At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.
The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.
Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested. from Goodreads.
I downloaded The Dutch House on a whim because it was immediately available and the cover made me feel as though I could visit my local art museum (how I miss you Art Institute!). Within a few short chapters I found myself spell-bound. Tom Hanks is an unparalleled narrator and he brought the main character, Danny, fully to life in a way that I could not have imagined.
I know that this book is billed as a fairy tale twist but, except for the banishment by the evil step-mother, I did not see the parallels. Not that this bothered me one bit. Rather, I could not stop thinking about how Danny grew up surrounded by women. Nurses, maids, his sister, his wife, each women in turn took care of Danny so that he didn’t even notice them. Not that Danny didn’t love them all, but as the story progresses and Danny tries to uncover his personal past and the mysteries hidden from him he discovers that the truth was always staring him in the face innocently guarded by the women that loved him.
This elegant mechanism, of having Danny be lost in his own past, completely fascinated me. Certainly I know people who are grown and know nothing of their parent’s past or the histories of their families. But Danny was so uniquely lost that everyone took care of him and assumed he knew everything forgetting that, for so many of us, we need the truth to be told again and again to internalize it.
If the story telling was fascinating to me the writing was an art unto itself. I may not have the opportunity anytime soon to visit my art museum but the author brought this story to vivid heights from the description of the Dutch House to the clothing, the cities, even the way it felt to see someone. And all of it was taken to a new level with the narration.
This book is going to be a go to recommendation for me for quite some time. And, I want to start a petition to have Tom Hanks narrate a great many more books!
Tell me, please!
Have you ever read a book that felt like visual art?