Wednesday, August 14, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Colony by Anne Rivers Siddons

I had a wonderful book recommendation from a friend. She was re-reading her favorite summertime novel, a book she has re-read for several years. She said it’s a comfort to her to bring it out each summer and revisit the story.

I couldn’t pass up a book that someone else loves that much. So I borrowed Colony by Anne Rivers Siddons from the library. (I can also add this book to my 2013 library challenge, hosted by Book Dragon's Lair.)

This absorbing family drama was just what I needed to break my reading slump.

Maude Gascoignes is a nineteen-year-old Charleston girl, brought up on a fading rice plantation by a benignly neglectful father. (Her mother died giving birth to her.) She’s a tomboy, a loner, and a nature lover who can’t imagine ever leaving the south until her older brother returns home from college with a wealthy Boston friend named Peter Chambliss.

I don’t generally buy into stories of love at first sight, but Siddons makes this one convincing. Maude and Peter are soon married and the book tells the story of their marriage–Maude’s life–by having Maude narrate the course of her summers at the Retreat, a summer home on Penobscot Bay in Maine.

Siddons does an incredible job describing the beauty of both settings by showing Maude’s appreciation of them. It’s the soothing beauty of the place that helps Maude to adapt at first, since the people are less than welcoming,

Maude is an outsider to the Colony in Maine. Wealthy New Englanders have been summering there for generations. Her mother-in-law, a cold, unyielding woman, makes it quite plain that she does not approve of Peter’s choice and is tolerating Maude for his sake only. But, over time, Maude learns the rules of Colony behavior and adapts to them, and although she never abandons her own convictions, some of her mother-in-laws beliefs are grafted on to hers.

Maude is aided by a neighbor, Amy Potter, who is shouldering burdens of her own. Maude also learns to rely on "natives," Micah and Tina Willis. Although the social divide between the wealthy summer people and year-rounders who work for them is almost insurmountable, Maude is able to breach the gulf and find true friendship with people whose values more closely reflect her own.

Times change and the Retreat changes. Maude’s family grows and her marriage goes through ups and downs. There are mini and major crises. Even a war.

The plot is really that of a woman’s life. Maude’s own theme for the plot of her life is "what she did for love." It’s a book full of love, full of mistakes and few options, but ultimately, it’s a satisfying read because Maude lives a full and ultimately satisfying life.

We don’t really get to see much of what these characters do for the rest of the year, although we are told what their jobs are. We only see them during their summer retreat. It seems to be when the most significant parts of their lives occur. Is that why this book makes such a lovely summer read?


  1. This does sound perfect for the summer. It's lovely when a recommendation from a friend turns out so well.

  2. Some books you read once, some you discover again and again.

  3. I have re-read this book so many times, it is literally falling apart. It somehow manages to captivate me every time I read it.

  4. I often reference this book as a stellar example of extreme White Male Priviledge