Books 2014:The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

This book at first, made for a simple afternoon read with all the beautiful imagery of the country side America. One can go on reveling in the images and indulge in its beauty for a long time. But even as one enjoys the loveliness there hangs about in every page, that intense darkness that only a love gone wrong can produce. Robert James Waller knows his art and well.

And at times one cannot be wrong in wondering if he knew it too well. The novel’s minimalistic grandeur shines bright in less than two hundred pages. In a small country side, a marvelous, charismatic man and a beautiful, sweet married woman fall in love passionately. That’s the story in a nutshell. But Robert’s artistry paints a prismatic picture with pretty much that simple, plain prism of a plot.

It wouldn’t be too fair to call it a plot either. As already mentioned, the writer was definitely writing about something too close to him. This can be gleaned from the fact he was a photographer and musician himself.

This book seen from a critical perspective passes off unscathed for Robert’s writing is fresh and free of mulled crafting techniques. But the story in my opinion walks on a tight rope running the risk of toppling completely over to the side of adultery. The author very strategically gives a disclaimer of sorts right at the beginning, masked in sugar glaze, describing the world as a place full of callous, ungentle people. He writes:

“If however, you approach what follows with a willing suspension of disbelief, as Coleridge put it, I am confident you will experience what I have experienced. In the indifferent spaces of your heart, you may even find, as Francesca Johnson did, room to dance again”

His craft is quite remarkable in that this little prologue cum disclaimer actually fits the bill. And it is the craft alone that I take away from this book, for story didn’t impress me much. Robert Kincaid, the wild and free photographer and philosopher of sorts is nonetheless one of the most charismatic characters ever written but does he truly find a place in the hearts of all readers?

Though the book claims to be a marvelous love story and has been accepted as one, it is not completely be justified. For what is there to be sympathized with a woman with a bad fate and no control over herself. As far as is evident from the story, Robert Kincaid, Francesca’s wild secret, himself seems to sympathize a lot with her dull life. Again, as the plot is prismatic, it depends on the angle at which it is viewed. It is interesting however to note the general the view the world had taken.

Of course, here the question is of good old morality which turned shapeless long time ago. But one can hopefully wish it still lurks deep down in the foundations of society and thereby, certainly in the hearts of some readers.

Agreed, her husband was a poor platonic lover in the twentieth century and not as dashing as the wise and wild Kincaid. But, can we truly accept this super dooper glorification of the passionate one week holiday of Francesca and Kincaid?

As a person who questions relentlessly the unquestionable only to receive unpalatable answers from society- no. And as a person who marvels at the clever craft of a writer, this one was certainly worth its salt. On a concluding note, the book is indeed of one of those controversial themes but lucky enough to be brought to light at a time such the nineties.


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