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The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Homeby George Howe Colt
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"This book is full of uncertainty, wonder and surprise." The Economist
"Colt's account, like the house that lies at its center, is full of surprises...contains more than seems humanly possible." The New Yorker
"The Big House brings engagingly and memorably to life the house and the people who inhabited it." Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
A compelling saga of redemption and renewal from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Anthony Shadid tells the story of rebuilding his family's ancestral home in Lebanon amid political strife, and his eventual understanding of the emotions behind the turbulence in the Middle East.
“Evocative and beautifully written, House of Stone . . . should be read by anyone who wishes to understand the agonies and hopes of the Middle East.” — Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of Crossing Mandelbaum Gate
“In rebuilding his family home in southern Lebanon, Shadid commits an extraordinarily generous act of restoration for his wounded land, and for us all.” — Annia Ciezadlo, author of Day of Honey
In spring 2011, Anthony Shadid was one of four New York Times reporters captured in Libya, cuffed and beaten, as that country was seized by revolution. When he was freed, he went home. Not to Boston or Beirut—where he lives— or to Oklahoma City, where his Lebanese-American family had settled and where he was raised. Instead, he returned to his great-grandfathers estate, a house that, over three years earlier, Shadid had begun to rebuild.
House of Stone is the story of a battle-scarred home and a war correspondents jostled spirit, and of how reconstructing the one came to fortify the other. In this poignant and resonant memoir, the author of the award-winning Night Draws Near creates a mosaic of past and present, tracing the houses renewal alongside his familys flight from Lebanon and resettlement in America. In the process, Shadid memorializes a lost world, documents the shifting Middle East, and provides profound insights into this volatile landscape. House of Stone is an unforgettable meditation on war, exile, rebirth, and the universal yearning for home.
Faced with the sale of the century-old family summer house on Cape Cod where he had spent forty-two summers, George Howe Colt returned for one last stay with his wife and children. This poignant tribute to the eleven-bedroom jumble of gables, bays, and dormers that watched over weddings, divorces, deaths, anniversaries, birthdays, breakdowns, and love affairs for five generations interweaves Colt's final visit with memories of a lifetime of summers. Run-down yet romantic, the Big House stands not only as a cherished reminder of summer's ephemeral pleasures but also as a powerful symbol of a vanishing way of life.
About the Author
George Howe Colt is a former staff writer at Life magazine whose articles have been published in The New York Times, Civilization, and Mother Jones, among other publications. The author of The Enigma of Suicide, a critically acclaimed work of nonfiction, he lives with his family in rural western Massachusetts.
Table of Contents
II The Family Tree
IV The Discovery of Cape Cod
VIII The North and South Faces
IX The Barn
X Plain Living
XIV Hidden House
XV The Big Cove
XVI Missing Cards
XVIII The White Elephant
XIX Full House
Epilogue: Indian Summer
Notes on Sources
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