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The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. Harper Collins Publishers 2019.  337 pp.

Just after World War II, Cyril Conroy surprises his wife Andrea with an enormous and lavish new house -The Dutch House. She had no idea he had been planning this and hated it. They lived there for about nine years and had a daughter Maeve and son Danny, who was seven years younger than his sister. When Maeve was around nine,her mother just disappeared which threw Maeve into a terrible tailspin and landed her in the hospital. Danny was so young at the time that it did not bother him as much. And that is the beginning of a novel that Danny narrates and that spans many years with The Dutch House always playing a part in the story.

Although Danny may be the narrator, Maeve is an equal partner. Their lives are always intertwined during both the good times and bad, which include marriages, births, deaths and everything in between. It is a gripping tale. One of those books that you just don’t want to put down and whose characters you miss when the book is over.

I have read a number of Ann Pachett’s novels, and they never disappoint. I do not think that you will be disappointed either. C.M.

The Watch that Ends the Night by Hugh MacLennan. Charles Scribner and Sons 1959. 373 pp.

This is one of my favorite books, and I have just read it again. The story takes place in Montreal and is related by one of the main characters, George Stewart. George and his wife, Catherine, are very happy, but Catherine’s rheumatic heart disease is a constant worry for them. Catherine’s former husband, Jerome Martell, a distinguished doctor, had been George’s closest friend. But he left to serve as a doctor doing the Spanish Civil War. After the Second World War began, he was in the French Underground. Later it was reported that he had died in a Nazi prison camp.

The novel begins with the shocking return from the dead of James Martell. Then the story moves back into the earlier lives of the main characters. There is a vivid picture of life in the thirties, and how desperate things were during the Depression. The author offers wonderful descriptions of Montreal in the winter, and also the Laurentians in the spring and fall. The most interesting character is Jerome Martell. He is a caring man, a brilliant doctor, but a person with many faults. 

Hugh MacLennan was a highly regarded Canadian author. He grew up in Nova Scotia and wrote a number of novels. I may have reviewed this book for the Observer before, if so I apologize. P.M.

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