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Explore this The Dutch House review and summary to unravel the tapestry of the Conroy family’s saga, filled with unconditional love, betrayal, and the echoes of the past. Prepare to step into the opulent corridors of the fictional home where one family’s stories of ambition, sibling bonds, and memories intertwine.

the dutch house by ann patchett on a bookshelf with books and a plant.

The Dutch House Review and Summary (Without Spoilers)

Lovable siblings, meticulous prose, and a goosebump-inducing ending make this novel a 5-star read.

The Dutch House has earned the following accolades:

  • Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
  • New York Times bestseller
  • Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club pick
  • New York Times Book Review Notable Book
  • TIME Magazine’s 100 Must-Read Books of 2019
  • Named one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, The Washington Post; O: The Oprah Magazine, Real SimpleGood Housekeeping, Vogue, Refinery29, and Buzzfeed
  • 2020 Audie finalist for Audiobook of the Year and Best Male Narrator

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett is one of the best books of the 21st century, as well as one of the best Ann Patchett books, best family sagas, best books set in Philadelphia, best character-driven novels, best books to read in the Fall and best audiobooks of all time.

I first read The Dutch House one year prior to writing this post, and one year later I’m still thinking about it. It’s safe to say The Dutch House has become one of my favorite books of all time.

I’m always a sucker for a complex family drama, and The Dutch House adds a layer of nostalgia, which I also love. As a bonus, the cover art is exquisite and the audiobook narration by Tom Hanks gave me chills by the end! (Talk about a book hangover!)

Near the end of World War II, the lives of the Conroy family are forever changed when they move into The Dutch House outside of Philadelphia. This move sets into action a course of events in which the family is undone, and young siblings Danny and Maeve are ultimately left to fend for themselves (without spoiling any storylines).

As Danny narrates, Maeve essentially becomes a mother figure to him, while they navigate decades of life and often return to The Dutch House, tied inexplicably to their past no matter where life takes them.

The audiobook version of The Dutch House is narrated by Tom Hanks. Author Ann Patchett explained exactly how she landed such a coveted narrator:

 It turns out I know Tom Hanks and so I asked him. I never thought he’d say yes, but he did. People have also asked if I gave him directions on how to read it, inflections and that sort of thing, to which I say ha-ha-ha. This is Tom Hanks we’re talking about. He knows what he’s doing. He did a spectacular job and made the book so much better than it actually is.

– Ann Patchett

Tom Hanks exquisitely captures the sentimental spirit of the book and of narrator Danny, who tells the decades-long story of his family, but more precisely, of his sister Maeve, who is truly the heart of the story.

Hanks brings exactly the same empathy and relatability to audiobook narration as he does to film acting. He’s the Tom Hanks we know and love in this audiobook.

I listened to this book via a free trial from the app. It’s just as easy to use as other audiobook apps, but it supports independent bookstores. Use my exclusive code LITLIFE to get 2 audiobooks for the price of 1 with a new monthly membership.

The story so magnificently comes full circle that I had chills in the final minutes of the audiobook. I hope everyone decides to listen to this book, whether or not you have already read it.

The Dutch House tenderly explores themes of grief, wallowing in the past, forgiveness, parenthood, and sibling love.

Read more of my best reviews of books.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Dutch House

Is “The Dutch House” real?

Author Ann Patchett has confirmed “The Dutch House” does not exist in real life. The Dutch House is a fictional mansion located in a suburb of Philadelphia called Elkins Park. In the novel, it was built by the VanHoebeek family from the Netherlands, but it was purchased by the narrator Danny Conroy’s father in 1946 as a surprise to the narrator’s mother. Danny and his sister, Maeve, were raised in The Dutch House.

What is the message of the Dutch House?

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett explores the enduring influence of the past, the complex nature of family bonds, and the quest for forgiveness. It emphasizes that true value lies in deeply rooted relationships, and it shows the need to reconcile with the past to embrace the future.

What happens at the end of the Dutch House?

At the end of The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, Maeve dies from a heart condition. This tragedy prompts Danny to reevaluate his life, leading him to move back to the Dutch house with his family. The novel comes full circle when Andrea, the stepmother who had once evicted Danny and Maeve, returns to the house in her old age. Danny, embodying Maeve’s lessons of forgiveness, lets her stay. This reconciliation emphasizes the inescapable pull of the past and the house’s enduring presence in their lives.

What does the Dutch house symbolize?

In Ann Patchett’s novel, The Dutch House, the Conroy family home symbolizes the inescapable pull the past has on siblings Maeve and Danny, who frequently return to it throughout their lives. It also shows that the value of material objects can be fleeting, while deep familial relationships endure.


This The Dutch House review and summary explored a mesmerizing tale of family, memory, and the passage of time, encapsulated by the line, “We overlay the present onto the past.” Readers revel in dissecting the intricacies of the Conroy siblings’ relationship, accompanied by questions of inheritance, loss, and redemption. The tale resonates on multiple levels, from its realistic setting to its complex characters and their changing relationships over time.

It remains one of my favorite modern books and I highly recommend it to all readers, especially in audio format, narrated by the incomparable Tom Hanks better than just about any audiobook I’ve read.

If you are reading it with a book club, check out these The Dutch House discussion questions.

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