Brothers by George Howe Colt
On His and in History

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Synopsis

 G E O R G E H OW E C O L T ’ S The Big House is, as the New Yorker said, “full of surprises and contains more than seems possible: a family memoir, a brief history of the Cape, an investigation of nostalgia, a study of class, and a meditation on the privileges and burdens of the past.” Colt’s new book, Brothers, is an equally idiosyncratic and masterful blend of memoir and history featuring both the author’s three brothers and iconic brothers in history—the Booths, the Van Goghs, the Kelloggs, the Marx Brothers, and the Thoreaus.

Colt believes he would be a different man had he not grown up in a family of four brothers. He movingly recounts the adoration, envy, affection, resentment, and compassion in their shifting relationships from childhood through middle age, also rendering a volatile decade in American life: the 1960s. Some of the Colt men now have children; all have found their own paths; all now consider their brothers to be their closest friends.

In alternate chapters, Colt parallels his quest to understand how his own brothers shaped his life with an examination of the rich and complex relationships between iconic brothers in history. He explores how Edwin Booth grew up to become the greatest actor on the nineteenth-century American stage while his younger brother John grew up to assassinate a president. How Will Kellogg worked for his overbearing older brother John Harvey as a subservient yes-man for two decades until he finally broke free and launched the cereal empire that outlasted all his brother’s enterprises. How Vincent van Gogh would never have survived without the financial and emotional support of his younger brother, Theo, in a claustrophobic relationship that both defined and confined them. How Henry David Thoreau’s life was shadowed by the early death of his older brother, John, who haunted and inspired his writing. And how the Marx Brothers collaborated on the screen but competed offstage for women, money, and fame.

Illuminating and affecting, this book will be revelatory for any parent of sons, any sibling, anyone curious about how a man’s life can be molded by his brothers. Colt’s magnificent book is a testament to the abiding power of fraternal love.
 

About George Howe Colt

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George Howe Colt is the bestselling author of The Big House, which was a National Book Award finalist and a New York Times notable book of the year, and November of the Soul: The Enigma of Suicide. He lives in Western Massachusetts with his wife, Anne Fadiman, and their two children.
 
Published November 27, 2012 by Scribner. 482 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Parenting & Relationships, War. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Brothers

Kirkus Reviews

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An often entertaining but ultimately unproductive rumination on brotherhood.

Nov 17 2012 | Read Full Review of Brothers: On His Brothers and...

The New York Times

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George Howe Colt looks at famous brothers throughout history, and reflects on how his own brothers have shaped his life.

Dec 21 2012 | Read Full Review of Brothers: On His Brothers and...

The New York Times

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George Howe Colt looks at famous brothers throughout history, and reflects on how his own brothers have shaped his life.

Dec 21 2012 | Read Full Review of Brothers: On His Brothers and...

Publishers Weekly

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New York Times notable author Colt (The Big House) presents vivid accounts of famous fraternal sagas, including the tragic path of Edwin and John Wilkes Booth, the mutual martyrdoms of the tormented Vincent Van Gogh and his tenderly supportive brother Theo, and the endless, anarchic scrimmage amo...

Oct 08 2012 | Read Full Review of Brothers: On His Brothers and...

The Boston Globe

Growing up in a family of four boys, George Colt was stunned to read about presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth and his brothers, one of whom was the nation’s most respected actor.

Nov 27 2012 | Read Full Review of Brothers: On His Brothers and...

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