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.