“Her first name was India – she was never able to get used to it. It seemed to her that her parents must have been thinking of someone else when they named her. Or were they hoping for another sort of daughter?” (Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell)
Who is Mrs. Bridge? A loving mother and obedient wife? An oppressed mid-century woman? A victim of an uncultured, uneducated mid-western lifestyle? Truthfully, she is all of these things rolled into one; a complete person with contradictions and illogical thoughts transcribed onto the page for us to read. In a series of vignettes over the course of a lifetime, the character of Mrs. Bridge is revealed, and what a complex, quaint, amusing character she turns out to be.
Yet, for all its virtues, one must guard one’s emotions when reading this book. It is beyond easy to fall in love with Mrs. Bridge and her lovely, old-fashioned ideas, but one can imagine that the end of a book about the failure of mid-century ideals might be less than pretty. Poor Mrs. Bridge, victim of a lack of education and an oppressive husband, ends her days in luxury, but also in an all-encompassing loneliness. I only tell you this so that, if you do indeed chose to read this gorgeously written novel, you will not languish in despair for days afterwards as I did. I have rarely encountered a more beautifully crafted book and I only wish that I could have met Mrs. Bridge in real life. But, if I had, she only would have politely mentioned the weather, donned her gloves and hat, and daintily walked in the other direction – it is only in a book that such a person could ever be known.
Buy – Borrow – TBR – Avoid
Further Reading: These sorts of intense character studies are few and far between, but I would liken Mrs. Bridge to Mrs. Dalloway (the similar names are purely coincidental) and, on a more epic scale, to Middlemarch.