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Ann Patchett’s fairy-tale family drama has a darker side

Patchett handles her timeline with dexterity, but tests the reader's patience

Author Ann Patchett poses with her Orange Prize for Fiction after an award presentation ceremony at the Royal Opera House in London.

Like the house that gives EM Forster’s Howards End its name, the Dutch House in Ann Patchett’s eighth novel is not always a benign space. It is situated in the suburbs of Philadelphia and was owned by a wealthy Dutch family, the Van Hoebeeks, who abandoned it and left their forbidding portraits, furniture and Delftware behind in 1945. A year later, the house is bought by Cyril Conroy, a realestate developer. But his ascetic…

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