Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Dutch House - by Ann Patchett


Danny and Maeve live with their father, wicked stepmother (Andrea), and two stepsisters in a grand home in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. When their father dies Andrea tells Maeve (a recent college graduate) that she and Danny are no longer welcome in the house and that Danny (still in high school) is now Maeve's responsibility. Left with little of their father's estate the siblings conspire to make the most of a trust fund marked specifically for their education. 

The house itself had a library (of course what grand house wouldn't?). The house was also mistaken for a library the first time Danny and Maeve's mother saw it. It had been purchased for her by their father as a surprise and despite that fact that it both had a library and looked like one, she had never liked it.

Danny and Maeve each make use of libraries. Danny describes reading library books on self-hypnosis as a child, and as and adult he researched property taxes and building prices in areas where he wanted to purchase real estate. For her part Maeve took advantage of the programming at the Philadelphia Free Library.

The story is told from Danny's point of view, but Maeve's story is very much a part of his. Maeve is a rare person who recognizes that a good life can be lived without having to constantly chase the next big promotion. She has a job she likes, and lives in a comfortable home and refuses to allow others to tell her to get a better job, or a bigger house. My father used to ask me when I was going to become a library director. Each time I would tell him that my position as a tenured university librarian was a better deal. Of course I could make more money as a director, but I wouldn't have the autonomy to decide what kind of research I wanted to do, or academic freedom to teach how I wanted to teach. My vacation time is generous and even without the big administrative bucks my husband and I managed to own our own home, send our child to private school, and to travel pretty much where ever we want, provided we are not living in a pandemic-ridden dystopia, of course.

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