publication date: 1959
I was just reading an article about authors writing from the perspective of the opposite sex. The author generally believed that men had a difficult time writing women characters. I was reminded of this article as I was reading Mrs. Bridge because, contrary to what had been said in the article, Evan S. Connell created a complex and realistic female narrator.
Mrs. Bridge follows the life of India Bridge, from her engagement until her children are grown and have left the house. And the portrait of Mrs. Bridge provided by Connell is possibly the most accurate rendering of an individual’s life I have ever read. Intriguingly, although the portrait of Mrs. Bridge is complete, the book is not long. Instead, Mrs. Bridge is composed of many short chapters with names like “Voting” and “One Summer Morning.” These vignettes portray Mrs. Bridge completely because they emulate life’s moments: many are seemingly irrelevant, some are frightening, others are routine or exciting.
Not only is Connell’s depiction of Mrs. Bridge’s life complete in its arbitrariness, it is accurate in its tragedy and absurdity. Connell gets underneath the sheen of Mrs. Bridge’s upper-middle-class American life in the 1940s and shows how rigid and isolating such a life could be for a woman. Connell describes Mrs. Bridge’s feelings of malaise and aimlessness as those “moments when this anonymous evil had erupted and left as its only cicatrice a sour taste in the mouth and a wild, wild desire.” Although the book devastatingly describes the tedium and seeming insignificance experienced by Mrs. Bridge, her life is not a tedious or insignificant one. The book is punctuated by humor and times of love and affection.
The other characters in Mrs. Bridge are realistic, penetrating, and often endearing. For example, the workaholic Mr. Bridge, sensing that his family misses him “would redouble his efforts at the office in order to give them everything they wanted.” Connell also creates authentic portraits of the Bridge children: Ruth, Carolyn, and Douglas. Connell especially captures the complicated nature of parent-child relationships. For example, when Ruth is leaving for New York City to live on her own Mrs. Bridge is worrying about her and reflecting on their own contentious relationship. However, Mrs. Bridge, for the first time, notices the relationship between Ruth and her father and is “struck by their easy companionship, as though they had gotten to know each other quite well when she was not around.” In just one scene, Connell so effortlessly lays bare a common, yet heartbreaking, occurrence that happens in families everywhere.
In Mrs. Bridge, Connell captures what it is to be human, with all its attendant absurdity, tragedy, humor, loneliness, happiness, and everyday sorrow.
5/6: seek this book out
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