The Bridges of Madison County
by Robert James Walles
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Warner Bros. (1992)
Theme-Fiction | Romance | Women
I was reluctant to read this book for a long time because of it being categorized as one of those classic romance fiction. I haven’t read the genre since my twenties, and it almost felt like there was nothing new the romance writer could offer me. Somehow, I thought I was done and dusted with this genre.
Yet, I picked up this book on a friend’s insistence, and oh boy! Was I surprised?
The writing is lyrical and poetic.
It’s a mature love story involving Robert Kincaid, a top-notch photographer for National Geographic, and Francesca Johnson, a low-key Iowa farm-wife with two kids. Kincaid is fifty-two, and Francesca forty-five when they first meet, on a dusty farm lane in Iowa where Kincaid has landed up for a work assignment.
What follows is a whirlwind romance lasting for more than two decades and ends on a sad but immensely romantic note. The story reads like a country song, a romantic, melancholic ballad arranged on acoustic guitar, banjo, violins, and rundown accordion. There are pickup trucks, autumn sunkissed afternoons, last cowboys, covered wooden bridges, and winged moths.
The frail threads that hold Kincaid and Francesca are almost tangible, their temptation almost palpable, and their separation heartbreaking. James touches upon the frailty of human relationships, unrequited love, loneliness, and separation.
The setting is picturesque and breathtaking if one has a penchant for Old American rural settings, small farm villages, emerald pastures, and slow dancing to old country numbers. There is a promise of escape, to get rid of overwhelming sadness weighed down by the burden of being morally upright. The beauty of the book lies in the simplicity of its premise. Yet the poetic language, inimitable metaphors, and impassioned tragedy keep one spellbound. The narrative is character centric, driven by Francesca and Kincaid’s desires, wants, and limitations. James tints everyday objects —pink summer dresses, cold beers, slamming of a door, yellow Formica kitchen tables in romantic hues, and reeling even the most reluctant and detached reader to invest in the story.
It’s dreamy, tragic, and at times philosophical.
There is a different sort of happily ever after. The narrative has its flaws. But when you look at the bigger picture—the petiteness of the story and the deep connection; the shortcomings tend to look almost diminutive.
A few remarkable lies from the book
Analysis destroys whole. Some things, magic things, are meant to stay whole. If you look at their pieces, they go away.
The old dreams were good dreams, they didn’t work out, but I’m glad I had them.
In a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once and never again, no matter how many lifetimes you live.
There are old winds I still do not understand, though I have been riding, forever it seems, along the curl of their spine.
A must-read for all fans of this genre!
As I went along, I felt something called readgret(the feeling of sadness for putting off reading a specific book until now, when you should have read it years ago). Something about the book made me feel that I would have loved it more had I read it in another phase of my life.