The Dutch House Summary & Study Guide

Ann Patchett
This Study Guide consists of approximately 45 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Dutch House.
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The Dutch House Summary & Study Guide Description

The Dutch House Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on The Dutch House by Ann Patchett.

The following version of this book was used to create the guide: Patchett, Ann. The Dutch House. HarperCollins Publishers, 2019.

In The Dutch House, Danny attempts retracing the early hurts of his childhood through his memories of his stepmother, Andrea. However, this task proves difficult as Danny's narration drifts frequently between dissociative remembrances, jolting back and forth between past and present.

The first time Andrea came to the house, both Danny and his sister Maeve were surprised, not only by her coldness, but that their father Cyril was seeing anyone at all. After their mother's mysterious disappearance years prior, Cyril kept largely to himself. Maeve assumed control of Danny's care and wellbeing. Andrea's appearance into their life complicated their sense of home and family. Not long after her initial visit, she began bringing her daughters Norma and Bright to the house, expecting Maeve to care for them.

Over the years, Maeve grew tired of her slew of responsibilities. Cyril, however, failed to acknowledge the burdens he was putting on his daughter, and dismissed her concerns. Maeve eventually moved to New York City for college, leaving Danny with his step- sisters and mother and Cyril. Danny began relying increasingly on his weekend afternoons with his father, loving all he learned about his father's real estate business. When Danny was just 15, however, Cyril died suddenly of a heart attack. Andrea then assumed legal control of the estate and all Cyril's property and assets. Shortly after his funeral, she expelled Danny and Maeve from the Dutch House and forbid them from ever returning.

Having recently moved back to the neighborhood, Maeve took Danny in. When she learned about her father's educational trust fund, she decided to send Danny off on an expensive academic career. She wanted Danny's schooling to exhaust the fund before Norma and Bright could use it. Because Danny has always depended on Maeve and bent to her opinions, he goes along with the plan, despite his lack of investment in a medical career.

As the years passed, Danny retained faithful visits home to see his sister. The two began a tradition of parking on the street outside the Dutch House, smoking, and recounting their fraught childhood memories. They would wonder at what had become of Andrea and her girls, hypothesize about the circumstances of Elna's disappearance, and analyze their father's mysterious and withdrawn character. Danny frequently returns to these remembered vignettes in Maeve's car throughout the novel, syncopating his recollections of the Dutch House and his school with his dialogues with Maeve.

One Thanksgiving when Danny was returning on the train from New York, he met Celeste. The two became close quickly after Maeve seems to sanction and encourage the relationship. Though Danny liked Celeste, he remained disengaged from their relationship. So when she suggested marriage shortly before her own graduation he hesitated. Maeve agreed it would be a bad idea as Danny did not seem to love her.

Years later, at Danny's former coach’s funeral, the two reconnected. Not long later, Maeve fell ill. Her condition, however, did not impede her excitement over having reconnected with their childhood nanny Fluffy. Several months pass before Fluffy contacted Danny as well. During their reunion, Danny was shocked to learn that Elna was still alive and lived in the area. The revelation proved his residual bitterness towards his mother. Endeavoring to secure a stable future for himself, he proposed to Celeste, believing she would never leave him like his mother did.

Though Celeste agreed to marry Danny, she was disappointed to learn he did not plan to become a doctor. Danny dismissed her concerns as his budding real estate business had been granting him a new sense of self and contentment. Not long after their marriage, they had May, and later, Kevin. Danny hired Fluffy as their nurse. She and Celeste grew an unexpected kinship. Throughout the years, Celeste and Maeve battled for Danny's attentions and loyalties. Celeste wanted Danny to devote himself to her and their children, while Maeve seemed to need Danny for her own sense of familial comfort.

Danny and Maeve remained close, continuing their Dutch House traditions. It was not until after Maeve had a health scare, and the two returned to the house, that they reencountered their stepmother for the first time in 30 years. Though they did not interact, seeing her made them pledge never to return. Some time later, Maeve suffered a heart attack. Fearing she would die, Fluffy contacted Elna. Danny, however, was furious to find his mother in the hospital with Maeve.

Throughout Maeve's recovery, Elna remained by her side. Months passed and Elna stayed with their family; Danny's children grew to love her as well. Maeve begged Danny to soften his heart and forgive her. One afternoon when the three were driving together, Elna brought them to the Dutch House, insisting they visit Andrea. They were all shocked when Andrea ran wildly out of the house and seized onto Danny, refusing to let go.

Inside, they visited with Norma and Andrea's nurse, learning the truth of her condition. Afterwards, Elna told her children she planned to devote herself to Andrea's care until her death. Maeve was devastated, and lived only two weeks longer. Elna stayed with Andrea until she passed away. Danny made amends with his mother. May grew up, graduated from school, and bought the Dutch House, granting the estate and her father a chance at redemption and renewal.

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