Colony

( 32 )

Overview

An unforgettable story of love, acceptance, and tradition.

When Maude Chambliss first arrives at Retreat, the seasonal home of her husband's aristocratic family, she is a nineteen-year-old bride fresh from South Carolina's Low Country. Among the patrician men and women who reside in the summer colony on the coast of Maine, her gypsy-like beauty and impulsive behavior immediately brand her an outsider. She, as well as everyone else, is certain ...

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Colony

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Overview

An unforgettable story of love, acceptance, and tradition.

When Maude Chambliss first arrives at Retreat, the seasonal home of her husband's aristocratic family, she is a nineteen-year-old bride fresh from South Carolina's Low Country. Among the patrician men and women who reside in the summer colony on the coast of Maine, her gypsy-like beauty and impulsive behavior immediately brand her an outsider. She, as well as everyone else, is certain she will never fit in. And of course, she doesn't...at first.

But over the many summers she spends there, Maude comes to cherish life in the colony, as she does the people who share it with her. There is her husband Peter, consumed with a darkness of spirit; her adored but dangerously fragile children; her domineering mother-in-law, who teaches her that it is the women who posses the strength to keep the colony intact; and Maine native Micah Willis, who is ultimately Maude's truest friend.

This brilliant novel, rich with emotion, is filled with appealing, intense, and indomitable characters. Anne Rivers Siddons paints a portrait of a woman determined to preserve the spirit of past generations—and the future of a plaice where she became who she is...a place called Colony

"An outstanding multigenerational novel...We are hooked from the moment we meet Maude."
The New York Times

Colony, a rich multigenerational novel set in Maine, showcases Siddons' talent for storytelling. Maude arrived at "Retreat" that first summer a 19-year-old bride whose Southern origins and gypsy-like beauty mark her as an outsider. Years later, now a confident matriarch, she attempts to preserve the elite colony's future.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
If it's gothic, Siddons (Outer Banks, King's Oak, etc.) can do it, or so it would appear in this latest novel destined for commercial success. In it, she takes her gifts for melodrama and tangling family trees up north, to a summer colony for Boston Brahmins on the coast of Maine, called simply "Retreat." But Siddons's heroine is a southerner, and on her she demonstrates one of her best tricks—her deep intimacy with her leading ladies, which the author shares with her readers from the get-go. Anyway, it isn't easy for sweet young Maude Gascoigne, from a moldering plantation near Charleston, to fit in when her new husband, sterling-silver Peter Chambliss (of a Boston banking family, Princeton, and Retreat), takes her to the summer place. For the first few decades Maude battles it out with her insufferable, hypercritical mother-in-law, the drunken and lecherous husband of her best friend, Amy Potter, and even Peter himself—a depressive, hermetic man who just sails away whenever things get rough. Gradually, though, little Maudie gets some starch and learns to endure almost anything, including: the death of her mother-in-law ("my beloved enemy"); Peter's weird coldness to his own two children, which ultimately sends the younger, Happy, to a sanitarium; the death of a grandson; the return of a bad seed, Elizabeth, Amy Potter's girl, who does her best to break up Maude's son's marriage; and whispers that float on the salt spray every summer about how much Elizabeth looks like Peter. Well, it turns out that Elizabeth's connection to Peter is very much an issue—but we're not telling why. Long-suffering Maude may not be everyone's cup of tea, but this time Siddons gets themelodrama balance just right and shows she's as much at home in Maine as she was in Georgia. Fans will be doing cartwheels, and others will queue up.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060179915
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/28/1992
  • Pages: 400

Meet the Author

Anne Rivers Siddons

Anne Rivers Siddons's bestselling novels include Nora, Nora; Sweetwater Creek; Islands; and Fox's Earth. She is also the author of the nonfiction work John Chancellor Makes Me Cry. She and her husband divide their time between Charleston, South Carolina, and Brooklin, Maine.

Biography

Born in 1936 in a small town near Atlanta, Anne Rivers Siddons was raised to be a dutiful daughter of the South -- popular, well-mannered, studious, and observant of all the cultural mores of time and place. She attended Alabama's Auburn University in the mid-1950s, just as the Civil Rights Movement was gathering steam. Siddons worked on the staff of Auburn's student newspaper and wrote an editorial in favor of integration. When the administration asked her to pull the piece, she refused. The column ran with an official disclaimer from the university, attracting national attention and giving young Siddons her first taste of the power of the written word.

After a brief stint in the advertising department of a bank, Siddons took a position with the up and coming regional magazine Atlanta, where she worked her way up to senior editor. Impressed by her writing ability, an editor at Doubleday offered her a two-book contract. She debuted in 1975 with a collection of nonfiction essays; the following year, she published Heartbreak Hotel, a semi-autobiographical novel about a privileged Southern coed who comes of age during the summer of 1956.

With the notable exception of 1978's The House Next Door, a chilling contemporary gothic compared by Stephen King to Shirley Jackson's classic horror novel The Haunting of Hill House, Siddons has produced a string of well-written, imaginative, and emotionally resonant stories of love and loss -- all firmly rooted in the culture of the modern South. Her books are consistent bestsellers, with 1988's Peachtree Road (1988) arguably her biggest commercial success. Described by her friend and peer, Pat Conroy, as "the Southern novel for our generation," the book sheds illuminating light on the changing landscape of mid-20th-century Atlanta society.

Although her status as a "regional" writer accounts partially for Siddons' appeal, ultimately fans love her books because they portray with compassion and truth the real lives of women who transcend the difficulties of love and marriage, family, friendship, and growing up.

Good To Know

Although she is often compared with another Atlanta author, Margaret Mitchel, Siddons insists that the South she writes about is not the romanticized version found in Gone With the Wind. Instead, her relationship with the region is loving, but realistic. "It's like an old marriage or a long marriage. The commitment is absolute, but the romance has long since worn off...I want to write about it as it really is: I don't want to romanticize it."

Siddons' debut novel Heartberak Hotel was turned into the 1989 movie Heart of Dixie, starry Ally Sheedy, Virginia Madsen, and Phoebe Cates.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Sybil Anne Rivers Siddons (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Charleston, South Carolina and a summer home in Maine overlooking Penobscot Bay
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 9, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Atlanta, Georgia
    1. Education:
      B.A., Auburn University, 1958; Atlanta School of Art, 1958

Read an Excerpt

 
Chapter One

All places where the French settled early have corruption at their heart, a kind of soft, rotten glow, like the phosphorescence of decaying wood, that is oddly attractive. Seductive, even, if my mother-in-law, whose astonishing opinion that was, was to be believed. And she was always believed. The conventional wisdom of her day was that Hannah Stuart Chambliss would rather be burnt at the stake than tell a lie. I don't find that surprising at all. I think the Maid of Orleans role would have pleased Mother Hannah to a fare-thee-well, even the fiery martyr's death. Mother H had a streak of thespian in her as wide as her savage stratum of truth, and she employed it just as fiercely when the need arose. I never knew anyone who escaped those twin lashes except my husband, Peter. He alone might have profited from them.

She told me that, about the corruption and the seduction, on the evening I came to Retreat colony for the first time. It must have been in her mind ever since she first met me, the year before, when Peter took me to the big house in Boston to meet her and his father, but she had never voiced it until then. But it was plain to me--and, I suppose, to Peter--that it, or something like it, lay like an iceberg beneath her austere and beautiful surface. Oh, she smiled her carved Etruscan smile, all the years of our relationship, and hugged me lightly and kissed my cheek with lips like arctic butterflies, but none of us were fooled. I don't think she meant us to be. My unsuitability hung in the pristine air of the Chambliss drawing room like a body odor.

But it was not until Peter brought me as a bride to the oldbrown cottage on Penobscot Bay, in northern Maine, where the Chamblisses had summered for generations, that she allowed that particular little clot of displeasure to pass, and with it damned me and Charleston, and, indeed the entire indolent, depraved South to Retreat's own efficient purgatory. That she said it with a little hug of my shoulders and a small laugh, in response to something old Mrs. Stallings bellowed in her ginny bray, did nothing to mitigate its sting.

Augusta Stallings looked at me, small and roundly curved and black-eyed and -haired and brown with sun, standing in the chilly camphor dusk of the cottage's living room, and fell upon my utter alienness, in that place of fair straight hair and rain-colored eyes and long bones and teeth and oval New England faces, like a trout on a mayfly.

"Charleston, you say?" she shouted. "Gascoigne, from Charleston? I know some Pinckneys and a Huger, but I never met any Gascoignes. French, is it? Or Creole, I expect. Well, you're a colorful little thing, no doubt about that. You'll open some eyes at the dining hall, my girl."

And that is when my mother-in-law laid her long Stuart arm around my shoulders and made her light little speech about the French and corruption and seduction. My face flamed darker, but I doubt that anyone noticed. The cottage's living room was as dark as a cave because Hannah would rarely allow the huge lilac trees that obscured its windows to be cut. It was the first thing I did after she died.

Peter pulled me close, grinning first at his mother and then at Augusta Stallings.

"The only French who settled in Charleston were four hundred good gray Huguenots on the run after Louis the Fourteenth revoked the Edict of Nantes," he said. "Not a jot or tittle of corruption in the lot of them. Or seductiveness either, I imagine. Unless, of course, you meant that Maude was an octoroon, Mama?"

"Don't be silly, Peter," Hannah said, in a tone that said she had indeed entertained the possibility. There was my dark skin, after all, and the black eyes, and the hair that curled in tight ringlets around my head. And something about the nose....

"You mean a nigger?" Augusta Stallings brayed, peering more closely at me in the cold, pearly dusk. The tumbler of neat gin that she held sloshed onto the sisal rug.

Colony. Copyright © by Anne Rivers Siddons. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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First Chapter

 
Chapter One

All places where the French settled early have corruption at their heart, a kind of soft, rotten glow, like the phosphorescence of decaying wood, that is oddly attractive. Seductive, even, if my mother-in-law, whose astonishing opinion that was, was to be believed. And she was always believed. The conventional wisdom of her day was that Hannah Stuart Chambliss would rather be burnt at the stake than tell a lie. I don't find that surprising at all. I think the Maid of Orleans role would have pleased Mother Hannah to a fare-thee-well, even the fiery martyr's death. Mother H had a streak of thespian in her as wide as her savage stratum of truth, and she employed it just as fiercely when the need arose. I never knew anyone who escaped those twin lashes except my husband, Peter. He alone might have profited from them.

She told me that, about the corruption and the seduction, on the evening I came to Retreat colony for the first time. It must have been in her mind ever since she first met me, the year before, when Peter took me to the big house in Boston to meet her and his father, but she had never voiced it until then. But it was plain to me--and, I suppose, to Peter--that it, or something like it, lay like an iceberg beneath her austere and beautiful surface. Oh, she smiled her carved Etruscan smile, all the years of our relationship, and hugged me lightly and kissed my cheek with lips like arctic butterflies, but none of us were fooled. I don't think she meant us to be. My unsuitability hung in the pristine air of the Chambliss drawing room like a body odor.

But it was not until Peter brought me as a bride to theold brown cottage on Penobscot Bay, in northern Maine, where the Chamblisses had summered for generations, that she allowed that particular little clot of displeasure to pass, and with it damned me and Charleston, and, indeed the entire indolent, depraved South to Retreat's own efficient purgatory. That she said it with a little hug of my shoulders and a small laugh, in response to something old Mrs. Stallings bellowed in her ginny bray, did nothing to mitigate its sting.

Augusta Stallings looked at me, small and roundly curved and black-eyed and -haired and brown with sun, standing in the chilly camphor dusk of the cottage's living room, and fell upon my utter alienness, in that place of fair straight hair and rain-colored eyes and long bones and teeth and oval New England faces, like a trout on a mayfly.

"Charleston, you say?" she shouted. "Gascoigne, from Charleston? I know some Pinckneys and a Huger, but I never met any Gascoignes. French, is it? Or Creole, I expect. Well, you're a colorful little thing, no doubt about that. You'll open some eyes at the dining hall, my girl."

And that is when my mother-in-law laid her long Stuart arm around my shoulders and made her light little speech about the French and corruption and seduction. My face flamed darker, but I doubt that anyone noticed. The cottage's living room was as dark as a cave because Hannah would rarely allow the huge lilac trees that obscured its windows to be cut. It was the first thing I did after she died.

Peter pulled me close, grinning first at his mother and then at Augusta Stallings.

"The only French who settled in Charleston were four hundred good gray Huguenots on the run after Louis the Fourteenth revoked the Edict of Nantes," he said. "Not a jot or tittle of corruption in the lot of them. Or seductiveness either, I imagine. Unless, of course, you meant that Maude was an octoroon, Mama?"

"Don't be silly, Peter," Hannah said, in a tone that said she had indeed entertained the possibility. There was my dark skin, after all, and the black eyes, and the hair that curled in tight ringlets around my head. And something about the nose....

"You mean a nigger?" Augusta Stallings brayed, peering more closely at me in the cold, pearly dusk. The tumbler of neat gin that she held sloshed onto the sisal rug.

Colony. Copyright © by Anne Rivers Siddons. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

"I have always written about women on their way from fragility into health, into some kind of strength."
Plot Summary
Maude Gascoigne, an impetuous and intrepid young woman from South Carolina's Low Country, feels like the ultimate outsider at Retreat, a summer playground for Maine's wealthy elite. And indeed she is. However, her passionate marriage to Peter Chambliss, an aristocratic Yankee, confers on her a place at Liberty, his ancestral home where the young men idle away the summers sailing and drinking, and the young women tend to the aging matriarchy of society women who preside over the colony. The disapproving eye of Maude's mother-in-law, Hannah, and the wagging tongues of the local ladies render Retreat more a hell than a haven for the impulsive and ungovernable Maude. Nothing she does, it appears, can escape their ruthless censure: not Maude's close friendship with Amy Potter, not her passion for preserving Maine's endangered fauna, and certainly not her intimate friendship with handyman Micah Willis, which challenges every one of Retreat's sharply defined class stratae. As Maude becomes a wife to an increasingly absent man, a mother to Petie and Happy, her two dangerously fragile children, and grandmother to the doomed Sean and the troubled Darcy, she finds an unlikely ally in Hannah, and learns how to become just as fierce a matriarch while still holding on to her individuality. As illicit love affairs, bouts of madness, and dangerous obsession wrack her family, Maude immerses herself in the ocean of scandal that consumes this summer haven in order to save both her family and the way of life that once threatened to conquer her butultimately becomes her salvation. Topics for Discussion
1. How does Maude permeate the rigid status quo of Retreat? Does she ever truly become an insider? Does her quintessential "otherness" ever help her in her journey?

2. Compare Maude's intimate friendship with Micah Willis, with her father-in-law's parallel relationship with Sarah Fowler. Do these platonic love affairs ultimately hurt or benefit their respective marriages? Do you agree with Christina Willis' assessment that such relationships can "stand side by side, but they can't mingle?" Does Maude succeed in keeping her loves unmingled?

3. Maude, who once hated Retreat and Liberty with all her heart, eventually finds herself being its only defender. What does Retreat, despite all its faults, offer Maude that no other person or place can? What does Maude sacrifice in order to keep Liberty?

4. Late in the novel, the novel's narrator shifts from Maude to her granddaughter, Darcy. What effect does this device have on you as a reader? Does your perception of Maude change after seeing her through Darcy's eyes?

5. What is the metaphoric significance of ospreys in the novel? How are osprey families similar to and different from their human counterparts in Retreat?

6. The colony of Retreat is much like a bee colony: the older women are the queen bees, and the younger women are the drones. How does a life of servitude affect the younger generation? Why is there such a high rate of madness among the young women of the colony: Happy, Darcy, and Elizabeth? Does this peculiar type of matriarchy truly confer power on its women? Who benefits from this system?

7. Micah Willis often tells Maude that she can never bridge the gap between being one of the "summer folk" and one of the "natives." Does their relationship ever traverse this boundary? Is it possible for them to surmount their class differences?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 32 )
Rating Distribution

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(14)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 32 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2006

    Bar Harbor Maine

    This is one of my favorite stories, a lovely read about an old woman and her story of love on an island in the Northeast. We have been vacationing in Bar Harbor Maine for 30 years and Ms Siddens captures the romance and beauty of this coastal community. I walk by the stately and majestic homes and imagine the stories of love and lost in these families from generations gone by. The author captured it completely.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2004

    Mixed Emotions......

    I have only one MAJOR complaint with this book -- I did NOT appreciate the slur on Christianity which I won't go into because of revealing the storyline for those who haven't read this. However EVERYONE NEEDS to know what happens when you die -- you go either to heaven or to hell and you don't get to heaven the way this book portrays. Having read other books by Siddons this one seemed different. I can see there are mixed reviews by the professionals and the readers. I would say it was heart gripping and written well but seemed just a litte 'wordy' sometimes which of course is what some people prefer so that wouldn't be a negative comment necessarily. It was sad because of all the tragic things that happened but also realistic for a generational novel. I wanted to quit reading a couple of times but I couldn't and when I did finish I felt like I had just lost a friend. So I would recommend this book especially to those that like long meaty novels that take awhile to get through.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2013

    Another great book by Anne Rivers Siddons.

    Anne R.Siddons is one of my favorite authors. I have been reading her books for many years, and enjoyed every one of them. I am from the South, and she is very good with the description of the location of the story and the people who make this one (Colony) a "can't put down book".

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2012

    CT Reader

    Claassic Rivers-Siddons, so great. I feel like I know every character.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Not as expected

    This book of Ms Siddons was not as engrossing as her others. While a good read it was a bit drawn out. The characters are not very appealing either.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2005

    LOVED IT !!!!

    Read it 10 years ago and it still pops into my head when I think of a good book. 1st book I read of Ann's and became a instant fan.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2000

    Everyone should have a 'retreat' to escape to

    I loved it and hated it at the same time. Siddons has a unique way of writing and does an excellent job of holding your interest. The characters, the scenery, the emotions, everything was so vivid it brought me to tears one minute and had me laughing the next. I was used to reading more light-hearted novels, so this one frustrated me because of all the hardships Maude had to bear, her mother-in-law especially. However, it was because of those trials that I came to love her character and admire her strength. I would highly recommend the book, but only with the comment that 'real life', as this book portrays, is not always a blissful romance with a perfect ending.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2000

    ABSORBING STORY OF MAINE AND ITS COLONIES

    Colony is an absorbing book that the reader will find almost impossible to put down. The narrative is tight and pulls many characters together in its' tale of old families that vacation in a colony on the Maine coastline summer after summer. Siddon probably one of the best novelists of her genre is a powerful story teller and a wonderful writer. Unlike Danielle Steele, her stories are not contrite and redundant but fresh and beautifully worded with the necessary sexual descriptions without the gratuitous wordage of other fiction novelists. This book is well worth reading and my only objection is to the ending which I felt had an unnecessary appendage.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2013

    Marine base

    .

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2003

    felt a bit cheated

    I enjoyed reading this book and pondered over the relationship of Peter to Elizabeth. The not so subtle clues suggested, very srongly, one relationship and then, to my surprise, without any foreshadowing, it turns out to be something else. A something else that left too many unanswered questions. I thought it was a cheap shot not worthy of Siddons.

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    Posted October 25, 2008

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    Posted August 29, 2013

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    Posted April 6, 2011

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    Posted October 17, 2008

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    Posted July 30, 2014

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    Posted February 25, 2011

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