The Dutch House discussion

Ok, are you ready? It’s our first sss book club discussion! I am excited to chat with you about The Dutch House. I hope you enjoyed the read. Before we chat, naturally I wanted to dive into the aesthetics. As such a visual person, where would I be if I didn’t share what I was envisioning while turning the pages.

The photo above is a bit more of a modern version than exactly what I hand in mind, but all that talk of all the glass, and couldn’t you just see Andrea lounging by this pool? (or more preferably me). House by Claxton + Marsh

And from the pea gravel to the red coat, the portraits, and an actual glass house… here is the world I was living in while reading the Dutch House…

 

SHOP THE LOOK:

 

OK NOW LETS TALK! Here’s what I am thinking: I will post questions below in the comments to start the discussion and you can reply to the question in the comments so we keep a thread under each question.  Feel free to add or start your own questions too. :)

 

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you have a “Dutch House”? Where do you secretly want to revisit again and again? Is it the place or the nostalgia?
  2. Is Andrea just another wicked stepmother? Did you ever sympathize with her?
  3. What features of the dutch house (the house itself) stuck out to you the most?
  4. Several of the characters here struggle to let go of something that weighs them down or hurts them. What do you think it is about human nature that makes people cling to things they know are no longer good for them?
  5. Danny asks Maeve, ‘do you think it’s possible ever to see the past as it actually was?’  Are memories re-shaped by what we understand as adults?
  6. Remember how Maeve receives a box of matches and instructions for how to light a fire from her mother on her eighth birthday? What do you think is the significance of this?
  7. I loved Maeve and Dann’s relationship. What do you think explains the longevity and power of their support and love for one another? Do you have this bond with a sibling?
  8. What are your thoughts on their mother leaving? her inability to stay in the house and her returning much later in their life?
  9. Did the book end the way you thought it might end when Danny’s daughter May buys the Dutch House?

 

All of my books are filled with pencil marks and highlights marking my quotes. I know a book is a favorite when I walk around days after finishing, and one of those lines randomly pops in my mind. I would love to hear what line(s) stayed with you after finishing the book.

“But we overlay the present onto the past. We look back through the lens of what we know now, so we’re not seeing it as the people we were, we’re seeing it as the people we are, and that means the past has been radically altered.”

“We were all so young, you know. We were still our best selves.”

“I had a mother who left when I was a child. I didn’t miss her. Maeve was there, with her red coat and her black hair, standing at the bottom of the stairs, the white marble floor with the little black squares, the snow coming down in glittering sheets in the windows behind her, the windows as wide as a movie screen, the ship in the waves of the grandfather clock rocking the minutes away.”

“I leaned over and kissed them both on the forehead, one and then the other. It cost me nothing.”

 

 

  • Do you have a “Dutch House”? Where do you secretly want to revisit again and again? Is it the place or the nostalgia?

    • Moira Lawler

      My “Dutch House” is the house I grew up in. It was similar to the house in the story in so many ways– big, with secret hiding places everywhere, so much history. It’s probably more the nostalgia of childhood that I want to revisit more than the house but I drive by it a couple times a year and once when it was for sale and had an open house, I went with my husband and loved the trip down memory lane so much.

      • I revisit the house I grew up in too sometimes. Last time I was there the owners came out and asked if I needed anything 😂. I told them it was the house I grew up in and they asked if I’d like to come back for drinks on the porch in the summer. Ha (it was very recent so pandemic times).

      • Lauren Fisher

        My dutch house was my childhood home. And very much like the book I can’t visit it anymore except in my memories. Because of this, the home has become so much more than what it was. My dutch house was in Detroit and it was torn down last year.

    • I still need to read the book 🙈, but wanted to note how much I love the moodboard. As a visual person these would make any book more enticing!

  • Is Andrea just another wicked stepmother? Did you ever sympathize with her?

    • Liz Arthur

      Andrea was a great foil character to Danny and Maeve’s mother. They had such opposite motivations, and where Danny’s mother ran from the house, Andrea clung to it. I don’t think either woman was portrayed as simply “good” or “evil.” I hated each of them at some moments, and I pitied them at others. I loved that all of the characters were flawed in some way, it made them feel more believable somehow.

      • Anastasia Foggy

        I can’t remember anything good the stepmother did. But maybe the good is in what she didn’t do. Like abandon the family and house.

  • What features of the dutch house (the house itself) stuck out to you the most?

    • Anastasia Foggy

      We all have our dream house and imagining the Dutch house brought me to mine. Not because of the descriptions but the feeling of how grandiose and magical the house was.

    • Mudrick

      Maeve’s curtained nook stuck with me. And I could clearly envision the painting of her!

    • Liz Arthur

      My favorite spot in the house was the cozy kitchen. I loved that this was where Danny and Maeve truly felt at home, even though it was a room that wasn’t meant to be seen. I also loved Maeve’s room with that magical window-seat!

    • I read the book awhile ago, but think about the quarter drawer at least once a week.

  • Several of the characters here struggle to let go of something that weighs them down or hurts them. What do you think it is about human nature that makes people cling to things they know are no longer good for them?

    • Anastasia Foggy

      I think it’s hard to let go of something we know is destructive because it is familiar and what we know. Like Maeve and Danny obsessively parking outside the house. They found a comfort in revisiting their pain.

  • Danny asks Maeve, ‘do you think it’s possible ever to see the past as it actually was?’  Do you think memories are re-shaped by what we understand as adults?

    • No, I don’t think so – sometimes we get to revisit our memories and tease out what exactly happened – I think memories are shaped by the emotions we felt at the time.

  • Remember how Maeve receives a box of matches and instructions for how to light a fire from her mother on her eighth birthday? What do you think is the significance of this?

    • Moira Lawler

      I don’t even remember this part so good question!

    • Liz Arthur

      I loved this. I think this was Maeve’s mother valuing experiences over possessions. To her, teaching her daughter to light the fire, and therefore “giving” her a lifetime of warmth, was far more precious than an expensive, superficial gift.

      • Ah! I love that You connected that with the matches. Her way of looking after Maeve when she wasn’t there?

  • I loved Maeve and Danny’s relationship. What do you think explains the longevity and power of their support and love for one another? Do you have this bond with a sibling?

    • Lauren Fisher

      My brother and I are very close. I would drop everything to help him and support him. I think being able to share the experience of childhood and adolescence with someone is so powerful. Siblings are more related to each other than they are to their parents so I think it’s natural to have a strong bond.

  • What are your thoughts on their mother leaving? her inability to stay in the house and her returning much later in their life?

    • Anastasia Foggy

      I don’t know how she could leave her children behind in the life she was so unhappy living.I don’t understand leaving Maeve and Danny. It made me mad at first when she came back. How dare her. But then I was happy M and D had the opportunity to know her.

      • It made me mad too and then I was mad at myself for being mad. Ha if we could all be that loving and forgiving…

    • Mudrick

      I thought it was pretty unrealistic how she was able to just reinsert herself into their lives. I also didn’t believe the housekeepers’ references to her to her being a “saint.” Parents who abandon their kids aren’t saints.

      • I struggled with this too! And I tried to think ok well she thought they were ok with the dad and house and I think she had to have some mental health issues. Ok if you want to be a saint and serve other people and that’s your calling great! but to not come back and check in on her own kids is awful.

    • Moira Lawler

      I found this part hard to believe… how could anyone leave their children, especially over a reason like she didn’t like the house? I get that it was her calling to help other people and essential to the story, but it did not make me like her at all.

  • Did the book end the way you thought it might end when Danny’s daughter May buys the Dutch House?

  • Moira Lawler

    Also can I just say I loved this book. A friend of mine said she felt like it was a waste of time and I could not disagree with her more. I LOVED it, got so connected to the characters, and am really hoping it becomes a movie too.

  • Text,photos beautiful post with everything… Everything is good in this post!!

  • Lauren Fisher

    I listened to the audiobook version of this book this summer as I was staining my children’s backyard fort. The audiobook was read by Tom Hanks so some of the lines pop up in my memory in Tom Hanks’s voice!

    • I heard the audiobook with Tom Hanks is great! What lines pop up for you?

  • Ann Patchett

    My friend Erin just sent this to me. I love it! The house! The kitchen! That red coat! It’s all so beautiful. Thank you so much for reading the novel. I really appreciate it. You have extraordinary taste.

    • Ahh!! Hi Ann! Thank YOU for writing such a beautiful novel and painting such a rich picture for us to get lost in. I loved and hated all the characters at some point and still has me thinking long after I finished the book.

  • Liz Arthur

    Thanks for doing this! I love the images you chose – they totally capture the mood of the book! Have you announced the next book yet?

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