Colony by Anne Rivers Siddons | Audiobook (Cassette) | Barnes & Noble


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by Anne Rivers Siddons, Judith Ivey

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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


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 possess the strength to keep the colony intact; and Maine native Micah Willis, who is ultimately Maude's truest friend.

Performed by Judith Ivey

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.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Abridged, 2 cassettes, 3 hrs.
Product dimensions:
4.40(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.80(d)

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.

Meet the Author

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.

Brief Biography

Charleston, South Carolina and a summer home in Maine overlooking Penobscot Bay
Date of Birth:
January 9, 1936
Place of Birth:
Atlanta, Georgia
B.A., Auburn University, 1958; Atlanta School of Art, 1958

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