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The Big House: A Century in the Life of an…

The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home (edition 2004)

by George Howe Colt (Author)

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6971422,616 (3.9)40
Faced with the sale of the century-old family summer house on Cape Cod where he had spent forty-two summers, George Howe Colt recounts returning for one last stay with his wife and children in this stunning memoir that was a National Book Award Finalist and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. 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.… (more)
Title:The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home
Authors:George Howe Colt (Author)
Info:Scribner (2004), 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Read in 2020, Bio / Autobio / Memoir

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The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home by George Howe Colt



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Although I loved Colt's descriptions of his very own reactions to the house and his family members, I had a hard time feeling as absorbed as perhaps I should have been with so much history. I was much more interested in the more recent happenings to the house. So much more time has passed since Colt wrote this book that it would be fun to see an update on his own children, now young adults, and their reactions to the Big House. ( )
  nyiper | Mar 2, 2020 |
The Big House has been part of the Colt family history since it was built by the author's great grandfather, Ned Atkinson in the very early years of the 18th century. Build on Bluff overlooking Cape Cod, it is the epitome of a bygone era, during which time all the old Boston families were building summer homes as an escape from the city. And though large and rambling, one time staffed by a host of maids and boasting a separate cottage to house the chauffeur, like other summer homes of it's era it was built to showcase the Puritan spirit that infused Boston at that time - humble, almost shabby, and certainly not a showcase for the family's immense wealth. Over time, the Atkinson family, later the Colts, lost their money and their name ceased to hold the sway it once had, though it was still loved and recognized by those with similarly prestigious pedigrees. The house, like the family, began to fall into disprepair, but despite that the family returned here every summer to fill it with laughter and memories. And that is what this book is, the memories and history of not only the house and family, but the Cape itself, as the George Colt brings his own young family here to spend one last summer before it's sold.

I didn't go into this book expecting much. I mean, how interesting could a book about the history of a summer house be? But it was a loving tribute to a man's life, to his family, and to the place he loved more than any other. It is a nostalgic and bittersweet, and utterly captivating tale of a particular American experience. And though I didn't grow up on the Cape, or even anywhere near the ocean, it made me homesick for days past. It also filled me with a desire to find a way to give my family these kind of memories. We aren't vacationers, and we certainly don't return to the same place year after year, but this book makes me wish we were. I absolutely treasure every word this author wrote and I'm deeply thankful that he wrote down his memories of that last summer, shared his family story - warts and all. ( )
  Mootastic1 | Jan 15, 2016 |
A memoir of the summer house on Buzzard's Bay, built by Colt's great-grandfather. As he spends his last summer before the house will be sold, every place sets off memories of people and places. There is a sweetness and poignancy to it, he reveals a great deal about the troubles of the family, but always finds a memory to savour. I only have two complaints. The first is that a family tree might have been helpful, trying to work out all the family members got me muddled. The second is more basic, just my own disgust at the 'saved' and 'renovated' home that Forbes and David (which ones are they?) end up turning the Big House into. It's all my worst ideas of what renovation is about and possibly explains why I might never own my own old home. However, Colt has made peace with it so who am I to complain?
  amyem58 | Jul 15, 2014 |
It's very good if you enjoy the history of families, houses, etc. It isn't the best bio/memoir I've ever read, but it was something different from what I normally read. No complaints :) ( )
  StephNicole0413 | Apr 7, 2013 |
This was a great choice to read while on the beach last week. The chapters about the history of Cape Cod, the Wings Neck building, the author's ancestors' life stories (complete with some funny quirks) all intermixed with stories about the beach house during the height of summer. Reading about the beach at summer while on the beach at summer reinforced the pleasantness and beauty of the ocean and being on vacation in a way not many other books have before, and now I think I need a beach-centered book to read when I am on the beach from now on. I moved into the 'falling' portion of the book as we came back from vacation. I think if I had been still on the beach I may have stopped reading and waited until I was home. It fits better. The last half, about what happened to his family members and the Big House completes the cycle of begin-develop-flourish-decline-decay/end. While parts of the second half were sad, the language that Colt uses helps to soften the blows. A very good book that was a lucky, lucky find on the library for sale shelf
  sriemann | Apr 2, 2013 |
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