The Dutch House audiobook review – Tom Hanks narrates a modern fairytale | Books

Ann Pulitzer-nominated Patchett’s novel begins and ends in an Art Deco mansion in a suburb of Philadelphia. Former home of a Dutch family sold after going bankrupt, it is now home to the Conroy family, led by self-taught real estate magnate Cyril Conroy. Spanning half a century, the story is told from the perspective of Danny, Cyril’s son and Maeve’s intelligent and caring younger brother. Danny recalls how their mother, Elna, left when he was three without an explanation; later he learns that she hated the house and its ostentatious grandeur, and moved to India to help the poor. The children’s lives are turned upside down again with the arrival of Andrea, Cyril’s new wife, who proclaims the house “a work of art”. When Cyril suddenly dies of a heart attack, Andrea orders Danny and Maeve to pack up their things and leave.

Tom Hanks is the narrator, bringing his usual warmth and sensitivity to a multi-generational tale that has shades of Hansel and Gretel, plus a dash of Cinderella. Despite dark themes of loss and family strife, Hanks uncovers Danny’s dry humor – “He loved buildings like boys loved dogs”, he says of his father – and his bewilderment at the thought of losing his house. Once a year after their eviction, the siblings park outside the Dutch House where they smoke and share stories of their past, such as when Cyril first brought their mother home. “He had bought the nicest house in Pennsylvania,” Maeve recalled, “and his wife looked at him like he had shot her.”

The Dutch House is available from Bloomsbury, 9h 53min

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