This is the new Ann Patchett novel, and I have a variety different thoughts about it. For one, I think it’s good. Two, the audiobook is read by Tom Hanks, and while he doesn’t bring any expressly different kind of dimension to the novel, he’s obviously a comforting presence as a reader. Three, this novel is an interesting experiment in which a contemporary novel I am familiar with (Boomers writing about their post-war childhoods dealing with distant parents, divorce, Vietnam, and other aspects of a shifting landscape), this is a historical novel. Ann Patchett is in her fifties and the narrator of this book would be in his 70s now. He’s technically old enough to be her father, but probably isn’t. Instead, if Ann Patchet is about a generation older than I am, this narrator is about generation older than her (and is my parents age). So I have read different versions of this novel before in the writing of American (mostly male) writers like Richard Ford and Richard Russo among others. So this novel about two siblings, the narrator and his close-knit older sister growing up with a missing (runoft to India) mom and a working father, their civil, but prickly relationship with their stepmother, and their connections to the “Dutch House” of the title, which their mother hated and their stepmother loved takes on a familiar air, but recast in the specifics of whose story this is. It’s tender and warm in places, and quite shocking (at least through the presence of a simple act of cruelty) in a few moments.
I have a healthy relationship Ann Patchett in that I’ve pretty much enjoyed each of the books of hers that I’ve read. I really liked Bel Canto and thought positively about State of Wonder and Commonwealth, and although I don’t entirely trust Truth and Beauty (it reads against the grain of Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face in some curious ways), but oddly I am more interested in her future books than those from her past I’ve not read yet.