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

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Scribner, 2003 - Biography & Autobiography - 327 pages
208 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.

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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The truly inexplicable lack of pictures is maddening. - Goodreads
So far, this is very slow and very little plot. - Goodreads
I was happy with the ending. - Goodreads
I gave it two stars because the writing style was good. - Goodreads
I was disappointed, the premise was intriguing. - Goodreads
The second would be PHOTOGRAPHS!!! - Goodreads

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

User Review  - Carol Feltes - Goodreads

Loved this book. There are parallels to my own life and experiences...a place that is my "big house." Read full review

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

User Review  - Maryannmc - Goodreads

Took me ages to read...but glad I did. Will remind you of a special place you went as a child on holiday...perhaps your granny's house. Can be a bit long and detailed. Second half read quicker. Read full review


Part One I Arriving
The Family Tree

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About the author (2003)

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.

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