The book to kick off my year of books was certainly not a disappointment. A visceral and passionate but relatable love story, short and intense, the words of The Bridges of Madison County reflect its subject matter and compelled me to finish it in just two days.
“To the universe, four days is no different than four billion light years.”
The writing of this post has taken somewhat longer – I have had no idea where to start or what to say! It has been a long time since I have written anything like this and I’d rather not kill the story for you as I really think it is worth the read.
In a flash, Waller tells an epic and yet modest romance – an irresistible affair between the trapped Francesca Johnson and the peregrine Robert Kincaid cut short by convention, modernity and fear. The story covers the 4-day long affair from both perspectives and then stretches into Francesca’s future as she grapples regret and eventually reveals her secret to her children.
Despite the blurb’s suggestion of inspiration, I personally found the story itself somewhat disturbing – a beautiful but dangerous glorification of freedom at the expense of family, responsibility and honour. The message being that ‘modern’ life (marriage) quashes humanity’s inherent need to be free.
“Words have physical feeling, not just meaning…”
It is told through perpetual and palpable contrast between Robert and Francesca’s lives and is vivified with references to photography, poetry and magic.
As Robert makes (not takes) pictures, he becomes for Francesca ‘Masculinity Incarnate’; a raw, physical experience (so unlike her real life). She convinces herself that his nomadic character is her wondrous ticket out of her town and its narrow-minded people; her husband and his obtuse, dull nature; and her daily existence, void of the elation of the arts. Robert epitomises the antithesis of everything her life is defined by, and he casts into shadow everything that she knows and trusts (including her children), which she becomes enthusiastically willing to abandon for this near-stranger.
“The people of Madison County liked to say, compensating for their own self-imposed sense of cultural inferiority, ‘this is a good place to raise kids.’ And she always felt like responding, ‘but is it a good place to raise adults?'”
In some ways, I felt I could relate to Francesca Johnson. Not the affair, obviously, but her outlook on life. She misses the world. She and Robert are the same at their core – thriving on beauty, freedom, words and light and she wants all of these good things for her children. She feels impotent in her ability to give these things to her son and daughter because of where she has ended up; she no longer invests in these things for herself and so feels that she does not have them to offer.
It is so important for parents to invest in ourselves. I think it is so misleading to say we should sacrifice everything for our kids… rather we should be, as much as possible, the people we want them to become. We are their first teachers and it is very difficult to impart knowledge without having it ourselves.
Well, that is one thing that I took from The Bridges of Madison County. There is much more to glean and much more that could be said but you’ll just have to discover it for yourself!
Did anyone read it with me this month? Has anyone else read it before? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to hear them.
“I am the highway and a peregrine and all the sails that ever went to sea”.
Right, so the story I’m about to tell you is kind of embarrassing. I deliberated whether or not to lie… or to simply silently edit my previous post… but I’ve decided to suck it up, put it down to baby brain, and divulge.
I sometimes like to pride myself on being a bit ‘in the know’ about the wide world of literature, especially the Classics, but here I am about to make a tit of myself. The book for this month was picked to be The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I did not realise this at the time of choosing it. Until about 10 minutes ago, I was gearing up to read The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling (which is not even the book that she published under an alias!). My brain (if it even warrants the term) made Nathaniel Hawthorne this non-existent alias and, even when I began reading The Scarlet Letter this morning, I was poring through his list of previous works thinking wow, this is an elaborate ruse! Unfortunately I cannot even say that I will now just read The Casual Vacancy, as originally intended, because I don’t have a copy – I bought The Scarlet Letter over a year ago, thinking it was the wrong book!
So now that’s over, my intention is to read ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike)‘ by Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J K Rowling, which I do have. It is described as “a gripping, elegant mystery steeped in the atmosphere of London”, which is good enough for me! I hope you’ll join me.
Until next month, fellow bibliophiles,