Books about houses are always special. When they have secrets, hearts and souls they have as much impact on folk as breathing humans do. The Dutch House is no exception.
This isn't a castle or a grand stately home steeped in history like some, but a (relatively) modern and beautiful piece of architecture, with large windows and gardens. For those who lived there it represents success and failure, wealth and poverty, family, forgiveness and abandonment. For the narrator of the story it is the place where he lost his mother but found a strong bond with a mother-like figure in his older sister. He also faced rejection, expectation and ambition.
The house represents different things for the family who grew up in it and, even after they leave, the Dutch House still has a nostalgic pull for some and a reminder of things others would rather forget. There is also a lot of self-pity, possessiveness and jealousy. Built by Dutch immigrants who left their personal possessions behind, it was bought by a self-made man in his shrewdness just after the Second world War. His wife didn't like the house and was often elsewhere, leaving behind her two children in the care of their loyal staff, until she finally left for good and the husband remarried. The second wife loves the house but not his children.
A family saga, that covers a few decades and generally easy to read. (A minor bugbear is that twice the expression 'he could care less' is used instead of 'he could not care less'). Overall this is the story of two siblings who stick with each other throughout the trials of life, a bit like Hansel and Gretel being sucked in towards the alluring gingerbread house with the wicked stepmother ready to eat them. Recommended.
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