THE DUTCH HOUSE – My Book of the Month – October, 2019

by admin on October 27, 2019

Ann Patchett zoomed to the top of my list of favourite authors on the strength of one novel, BEL CANTO and I read all her other novels before and since but nothing compared to it. Until now.

With THE DUTCH HOUSE, just published this year she has once again reached the heights she attained with BEL CANTO. THE DUTCH HOUSE might even be better but I am reluctant to shift BEL CANTO from its place of honour in my pantheon of great modern novels.

If you are like me, you read a novel and although you may enjoy it while you are reading it, after you’ve finished you are hard-pressed a week later to recall anything much about it except that you enjoyed it.

Not so with the novels you elevate to that select list of favourites. You savour the stories, recalling scenes that moved you and continue to, years later.

Of course comparisons are odious and whether THE DUTCH HOUSE or BEL CANTO is the better novel will be a matter of individual taste. What is more astonishing to me is that one author can have produced two equally great novels and Ann Patchett has done that.

I think of Anne Tyler’s BREATHING LESSONS and THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST, when I search for similar pairs of books. But mostly when we think of authors we think of one book in particular.

So does this mean I will stop reading Ann Patchett in future, as she is unlikely to come up with yet another novel in the same league? No, of course not, she will always be worth reading. But I will not expect the impossible.

THE DUTCH HOUSE with its enclosed world and constant point of reference in the lives of the family who inhabit it, will remain in your mind long after you finish it.

As long as that mansion in BEL CANTO, with its garden enclosing the opera singer’s fellow prisoners? Maybe.

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