Happy New Year! It’s now halfway through January and I realized I haven’t logged in on here in a while. During the shutdown last year, I started reading again (you know, between homeschooling and learning how to cook every meal) but really, I did make it a point to turn off my phone at night and curl up with a book instead. It was partly what helped me keep my sanity. I have enjoyed it so much but find myself wanting to discuss the books with someone, anyone! Being a part of a book club sounds great but I would probably be the only nerdy one that actually read the book and wanted to discuss while drinking and eating all the cheese plate, of course.
But while I am still leaving the house very little (I hope you are all taking care of yourselves), I figure I decided why not start a SSS book club! Even if I end up chatting with just one person about the book, I will have doubled my discussion group. I count myself EXTREMELY lucky to have found a right hand gal here in Michigan (finally!), Anastasia Foggy, who helps me with both looking after the kids, (she nannied all through college while she got her bachelors in writing) and also helps in the studio and is now a (sss first ever) blog contributor. She also feeds me all the books I could ever want because she’s never without a book in her hand. The only problem is we never read them at the same time and by the time I finish one and want to discuss, she has read 5 since and doesn’t remember everything. ha SO we are doing this to read the same book at the same time.
Our first book is The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. Have you read it? I’m excited to dive in.
I’ve included this sneak peek into the novel written by Anastasia.
The Dutch House is one of those novels where the characters become so real you think about them days later. The book has fairytale esque elements. Patchett writes, “they had all become characters in the worst part of a fairytale.” Except the story feels real, in that we all experience love, loss, and longing.
The fairytale begins with the house. The Dutch House that “from certain vantage points of distance, it appeared to float several inches above the hill it sat on.” It marvels all with its “Versailles vibes,” and its treasures: marble floors, gilt ceilings, silk chairs, Chinese lamps, and grand fireplaces. The glass walls hold inside the delft dinnerware, oil paintings, staircases, and 3rd-floor ballroom and wrap up the house into a piece of art.
The original owners, the Van Hoebeeks, built the house in 1920s Philadelphia. Cyril Conroy acquires the house in 1946 when the Van Hoebecks go bankrupt. Cyril buys the house to surprise his wife. Sure, this grand gesture (and home) will be her dream come true. This is the turn in the fairytale. Elna, Cyril’s wife, despises the house. It is too grandiose for her. So she leaves. She leaves her husband and children, Maeve and Danny, behind with the cook and housekeeper. The housekeepers are like fairy godmothers looking after the children as their own.
Soon, Cyril marries again. And the evil stepmother and stepsisters take over. Can you guess what happens next?
Once Danny moves away to college, the two develop an obsessive pattern when he returns home. They park their Oldsmobile across the street from The Dutch House to reminisce over the nightmare that played out. The car windows down, two arms out the window, smoking cigarettes blowing smoke into the frigid winter air watching and, “layering the present onto the past.”
By the end of the book, I feel like I had been sitting in the back seat with Danny and Maeve all along. It all is too real for me: my hand out the window, blowing the same smoke into the same kind of cold air, longing to understand the past. Don’t we all know the ways of wishing for what could have been and struggling to come to terms with what was?
This is a book I will read again and again. Maeve is high up on my list of top 5 favorite characters from a novel. The book’s living emotions— nostalgia, forgiveness, anger, love — is what makes this novel one to savor.
I can’t wait to hear what you think about the book and the HOUSE! Let’s come back together here on February 1st to discuss. Is that enough time? If you’re interested, let me know what a normal time is for these things. I was thinking initially a month but I didn’t get the post up when I had planned. Ok scratch that, how about since it is the first time, I give extra time and we come back to chat on March 1st?
I hope you enjoy the book and check back March 1st for our visual summary and book club discussion questions. Happy Reading.
Oh and I don’t know if I have ever shared this view of our house yet. The reading loft with the new staircase. One of my favorite spots in the house.
SHOP THE ROOM:Chair is from France & Son // Pillow is by LRNCE // Rug is by Sarah Sherman Samuel for Lulu & Georgia // Ottoman is vintage upholstered with Jenny Pennywood Fabric // Pendant Light is by Cedar & Moss