Ann Patchett is one of my favourite American novelists. I’m immediately drawn into her books, whether her book is set in the Amazon (State of wonder), about a group of terrorists who befriend their captives (Bel Canto) or her collection of essays (This is the story of a happy marriage).
Her latest novel is The Dutch House, set in Pennsylvania. There are no terrorists, no lost characters in the Amazon. In fact, this is a relatively quiet book with considerably less tension than her previous novels. The only thing at stake is a house, not someone’s life.
But as in all of Patchett’s novels, readers are immediately drawn into the lives of her characters. The Dutch House is told from Danny’s point of view, and follows the story of Danny and his older sister Maeve growing up in the Dutch house and their eventual dismissal from it. (I’m not spoiling anything – this is all revealed in pieces within the first chapter).
And perhaps that’s Patchett’s skill – as a reader you know what’s coming but you’re still going to turn each page for the sheer pleasure of reading her words.
Patchett is also a bookshop owner, and she has a passionate commitment to ensuring her hometown, Nashville, is well supplied with books.
There’s a great conversation between Patchett and Elizabeth Gilbert through the New York Library conversations and an interview with Patchett in The Guardian where she talks about the modern-day fairy tale qualities of The Dutch House and its theme of grief and loss.
This is definitely one of my favourite books for the year!