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The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home

by

The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In this intimate and poignant history of a sprawling century-old summer house on Cape Cod, George Howe Colt reveals not just one family's fascinating story but a vanishing way of life. Faced with the sale of the treasured house where he had spent forty-two summers, Colt returned for one last August with his wife and young children. The Big House, the author's loving tribute to his one-of-a-kind family home, interweaves glimpses of that elegiac final visit with memories of earlier summers spent at the house and of the equally idiosyncratic people who lived there over the course of five generations.

Built by Colt's great-grandfather one hundred years ago on a deserted Cape Cod peninsula, the house is a local landmark (neighboring children know it as the Ghost House): a four-story, eleven-bedroom jumble of gables, bays, sloped roofs, and dormers. The emotional home of the Colt family, the Big House has watched over five weddings, four divorces, and three deaths, along with countless anniversaries, birthday parties, nervous breakdowns, and love affairs. Beaten by wind and rain, insulated by seaweed, it is both romantic and run-down, a symbol of the faded glory of the Boston Brahmin aristocracy.

With a mixture of amusement and affection, Colt traces the rise and fall of this tragicomic social class while memorably capturing the essence of summer's ephemeral pleasures: sailing, tennis, fishing, rainy-day reading. Time seems to stand still in a summer house, and for the Colts the Big House always seemed an unchanging place in a changing world. But summer draws to a close, and the family must eventually say good-bye.

Elegant and evocative, The Big House is both magical and sad, a gift to anyone who holds cherished memories of summer.

Review:

"Colt...is adept at exposing the dark underbelly of WASP restraint, recording the mental illness, alcoholism and despair that have plagued his family....This love letter to the past is a quiet delight." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"In a touching, deeply felt memoir...Colt goes beyond his own wistful longing, rendering keen observations of a lifestyle borne of privilege, perpetuated by tradition, and celebrated through elegance." Booklist

Review:

"[T]he wonder of this book is that the reader comes slowly, deeply, to comprehend the allure of a family world set staunchly against time, and the pathos of the author's struggle to let go of that world." The New York Times

Review:

"Colt's account, like the house that lies at its center, is full of surprises and contains more than seems humanly possible: a family memoir, a brief history of the Cape, an investigation of nostalgia, a catalogue of local fauna, a study of class, and a meditation on the privileges and burdens of the past." New Yorker

Review:

"The Big House brings engagingly and memorably to life the house and the people who inhabited it." Washington Post

Review:

"Well researched and written with a meditative grace, Colt's book is obviously a labor of love. The only complaint is that, like a warm, breezy summer on the Cape, it ends far too quickly." Library Journal

Synopsis:

In this intimate and poignant history of a sprawling century-old summer house on Cape Cod, George Howe Colt reveals not just one family's fascinating story but a vanishing way of life. Faced with the sale of the treasured house where he had spent forty-two summers, Colt returned for one last August with his wife and young children. The Big House, the author's loving tribute to his one-of-a-kind family home, interweaves glimpses of that elegiac final visit with memories of earlier summers spent at the house and of the equally idiosyncratic people who lived there over the course of five generations.

Built by Colt's great-grandfather one hundred years ago on a deserted Cape Cod peninsula, the house is a local landmark (neighboring children know it as the Ghost House): a four-story, eleven-bedroom jumble of gables, bays, sloped roofs, and dormers. The emotional home of the Colt family, the Big House has watched over five weddings, four divorces, and three deaths, along with countless anniversaries, birthday parties, nervous breakdowns, and love affairs. Beaten by wind and rain, insulated by seaweed, it is both romantic and run-down, a symbol of the faded glory of the Boston Brahmin aristocracy.

With a mixture of amusement and affection, Colt traces the rise and fall of this tragicomic social class while memorably capturing the essence of summer's ephemeral pleasures: sailing, tennis, fishing, rainy-day reading. Time seems to stand still in a summer house, and for the Colts the Big House always seemed an unchanging place in a changing world. But summer draws to a close, and the family must eventually say good-bye.

Elegant and evocative, The Big House is both magical and sad, a gift to anyone who holds cherished memories of summer.

Table of Contents

Contents

Prologue: Winter

PART ONE

I Arriving

II The Family Tree

III"1963

IV The Discovery of Cape Cod

V"Rooftree

VI"Renovations

VII"Fishing

VIII"The North and South Faces

IX"The Barn

X"Plain Living

XI"Money

XII"Sailing

XIII"Tennis

Midsummer

PART TWO

XIV"Hidden House

XV"The Big Cove

XVI"Missing Cards

XVII"Rain

XVIII"The White Elephant

XIX"Full House

XX"Florida

XXI"Leaving

Epilogue: Indian Summer

Notes on Sources

Acknowledgments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780684845173
Subtitle:
A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home
Author:
Colt, George Howe
Publisher:
Scribner
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
United States - 20th Century
Subject:
Historic buildings
Subject:
Vacation homes
Subject:
Cape Cod
Subject:
Personal Memoirs
Subject:
Specific Groups - General
Subject:
General Biography
Subject:
United States - State & Local - New England
Copyright:
Series Volume:
1
Publication Date:
June 2003
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
9.38x6.36x1.17 in. 1.10 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
History and Social Science » Americana » Massachusetts
History and Social Science » Americana » Northeast

The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.50 In Stock
Product details 336 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9780684845173 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Colt...is adept at exposing the dark underbelly of WASP restraint, recording the mental illness, alcoholism and despair that have plagued his family....This love letter to the past is a quiet delight."
"Review" by , "In a touching, deeply felt memoir...Colt goes beyond his own wistful longing, rendering keen observations of a lifestyle borne of privilege, perpetuated by tradition, and celebrated through elegance."
"Review" by , "[T]he wonder of this book is that the reader comes slowly, deeply, to comprehend the allure of a family world set staunchly against time, and the pathos of the author's struggle to let go of that world."
"Review" by , "Colt's account, like the house that lies at its center, is full of surprises and contains more than seems humanly possible: a family memoir, a brief history of the Cape, an investigation of nostalgia, a catalogue of local fauna, a study of class, and a meditation on the privileges and burdens of the past."
"Review" by , "The Big House brings engagingly and memorably to life the house and the people who inhabited it."
"Review" by , "Well researched and written with a meditative grace, Colt's book is obviously a labor of love. The only complaint is that, like a warm, breezy summer on the Cape, it ends far too quickly."
"Synopsis" by , In this intimate and poignant history of a sprawling century-old summer house on Cape Cod, George Howe Colt reveals not just one family's fascinating story but a vanishing way of life. Faced with the sale of the treasured house where he had spent forty-two summers, Colt returned for one last August with his wife and young children. The Big House, the author's loving tribute to his one-of-a-kind family home, interweaves glimpses of that elegiac final visit with memories of earlier summers spent at the house and of the equally idiosyncratic people who lived there over the course of five generations.

Built by Colt's great-grandfather one hundred years ago on a deserted Cape Cod peninsula, the house is a local landmark (neighboring children know it as the Ghost House): a four-story, eleven-bedroom jumble of gables, bays, sloped roofs, and dormers. The emotional home of the Colt family, the Big House has watched over five weddings, four divorces, and three deaths, along with countless anniversaries, birthday parties, nervous breakdowns, and love affairs. Beaten by wind and rain, insulated by seaweed, it is both romantic and run-down, a symbol of the faded glory of the Boston Brahmin aristocracy.

With a mixture of amusement and affection, Colt traces the rise and fall of this tragicomic social class while memorably capturing the essence of summer's ephemeral pleasures: sailing, tennis, fishing, rainy-day reading. Time seems to stand still in a summer house, and for the Colts the Big House always seemed an unchanging place in a changing world. But summer draws to a close, and the family must eventually say good-bye.

Elegant and evocative, The Big House is both magical and sad, a gift to anyone who holds cherished memories of summer.

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