Sunday, December 28, 2008

BRIDGE OF SIGHS

Bridge of Sighs, Richard Russo, Alfred A Knopf, 2007, 642 pp


I read Richard Russo's Pulitzer Prize winning Empire Falls about five years ago. I liked it well enough because the characters were good, because he kept me turning the pages and because at the time I was going through big, positive spiritual changes and there is nothing like a book about small-town America to link you back to the mundane.

I read Bridge of Sighs, rushing through it rather more quickly than I probably should have, because I had a reading group discussion coming up. The rushing made me resent the many slow passages which I might have enjoyed more at a more leisurely pace. I did like the characters and their development. I admired the ideas he was expounding: do people really ever change their basic character?; is it better to be sunny and hopeful or warily cynical?; what is the ultimate effect of carcinogenic toxins on a gene pool? And the ultimate mystery of life: what is love?

The bottom line though is that I did not really like the book. Certain things annoyed me just a little too much and spoiled the overall effect. They were the above mentioned slow passages, an odd arrangement of the plot, some dialogue that didn't fit the characters and a just slightly somehow insincere quality in some of the emotions.

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