No Words Wasted Sale
 
 

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to PowellsBooks.news
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores


    Recently Viewed clear list


    Original Essays | January 14, 2015

    Marie Mutsuki Mockett: IMG On Trimming Roses



    Gardens do not wait. Weeds grow and flowers wilt. In the days and weeks following my father's death, my parents' garden continued to flourish and... Continue »
    1. $18.87 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    spacer
Qualifying orders ship free.
$7.50
Used Hardcover
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
1 Beaverton Americana- Northeast
1 Local Warehouse Americana- Northeast

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

 

 

Excerpt

Prologue

WINTER

The doors that are always open have been closed and locked. The windows are shut tight. The shades are drawn. No water runs from the faucets. The toaster — which in the best of times works only if its handle is pinned under the weight of a second, even less functional toaster — is unplugged. The kitchen cupboards are empty except for a stack of napkins, a box of sugar cubes, and eight cans of beer. The porch furniture — six white plastic chairs, two green wooden tables — has been stacked in the dining room. The croquet set, the badminton equipment, the tennis net, and the flag are behind closet doors. The dinghy is turtled on sawhorses in the barn, the oars angled against the wall. The roasted-salt scent of August has given way to the stale smell of mothballs, ashes, mildew.

Here and there are traces of last summer: a striped beach towel tossed on the washing machine, a half-empty shampoo bottle wedged in the wooden slats of the outdoor shower, a fishing lure on the living room mantel, a half-burned log in the fireplace, a sprinkling of sand behind the kitchen door. Dead hornets litter the windowsills. A drowned mouse floats in the lower-bedroom toilet. The most recent entry in the guest book was made five months ago. The top newspaper in the kindling pile is dated September 29. The ship's clock in the front hall has stopped at 2:45, but whether that was A.M. or P.M. no one can tell.

After gorging on summer for three months, the house has gone into hibernation. They call it the off-season, as if there were a switch in the cellar, next to the circuit breakers, that one flipped to plunge the house from brimming to empty, warm to cold, noisy to silent, light to dark. Outside, too, the world has changed color, from blues, yellows, and greens to grays and browns. The tangle of honeysuckle, Rosa rugosa, and poison ivy that lapped at the porch is a skein of bare branches and vines. The lawn is hard as tundra, brown as burlap. The Benedicts' house next door, hidden from view when I was last here, is visible through the leafless trees. The woods give up their secrets: old tennis balls, an errant Frisbee, a lost tube of sunblock, a badminton birdie. Out in the bay, the water is the color of steel and spattered with whitecaps; without the presence of boats to lend perspective, the waves look ominously large. On the stony beach, the boardwalk — a set of narrow planks we use to enter the water without spraining our ankles on the algae-slicked rocks — has been piled above the tide line, beyond the reach, we hope, of storms.

A summer house in winter is a forlorn thing. In its proper season, every door is unlocked, every window wide open. People, too, are more open in summer, moving through the house and each other's life as freely as the wind. Their schools and offices are distant, their guard is down, their feet are bare. Now as I walk from room to room, shivering in my parka, I have the feeling I'm trespassing, as if I've sneaked into a museum at night. Without people to fill it, the house takes on a life of its own. Family photographs seem to breathe, their subjects vivid and laughing and suspended at the most beautiful moments of their youths: my father in his army uniform, about to go off to World War II; my aunt in an evening gown, in a shot taken for a society benefit not long before her death at twenty-eight; my grandfather as a Harvard freshman, poised to win an ice hockey game; my cousins in the summer of 1963, gathered on the sunny lawn. I am older than all of them, even though many are now dead.

In this still house, where is the summer hiding? Perhaps in the mice whose droppings pepper the couch, the bats that brood in the attic eaves, the squirrels that nest in the stairwell walls. They are silent now, but we will hear and see them — and the offspring to which they will soon give birth — in a few months. For if the house is full of memory, it is equally full of anticipation. Dormant life lies everywhere, waiting to be picked up where it left off, like an old friendship after a long absence: that towel ready to be slung over a sweaty shoulder, that tennis ball to be thrown into the air, those chairs to be set out on the porch, that fishing lure to be cast into the bay, that guest book to be inscribed with a day in June. Even on the coldest winter morning, this house holds within it, like a voluptuous flower within a hard seed, the promise of summer.

Copyright © 2001 by SimonandSchuster

Product Details

ISBN:
9780684845173
Subtitle:
A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East
Author:
Colt, George Howe
Author:
Shadid, Anthony
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
1
Publication Date:
June 2003
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 1.15 lb

Other books you might like

  1. Crockery Cookery Revised Edition Used Book Club Hardcover $1.95
  2. Betty Crockers Slow Cooker Cookbook
    Used Spiral/comb $7.95
  3. Healthy Crockery Cookery
    Used Trade Paper $5.95
  4. Volcanoes! (National Geographic Readers) Used Trade Paper $2.50
  5. The Carrot Seed
    Used Pamphlet $2.50

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 , 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.
"Synopsis" by , “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.

"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.

spacer
spacer
  • back to top

FOLLOW US ON...

     
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.