On the surface, this is a story about the life of a housewife, Mrs Bridge, who lives in Kansas City with her husband and three children between the two World Wars. Beneath the surface, this novel is actually about a lonely woman who avoids change at all costs and who cannot comprehend the fact that she is living an existential nightmare.
In most fiction, the protagonist learns something new, changes, and becomes something greater as a result. In this novel, Evan S. Connell abandons these literary conventions. While Mrs Bridge sometimes engages in half-hearted reflection, she always reverts back to her life of privilege, allowing herself to be distracted by shopping, going to the country club, or gossiping with her fellow housewives. There are moments when Mrs Bridge surprises the reader with her poignant insights into the human condition, mortality, and her own life of leisure . . . but she either forgets or chooses not to confront these truths. This novel is told in a series of vignettes, and within each, Connell doesn’t waste a single word, creating a narrative that is realistic, funny, moving, often heartbreaking, and filled with irony. Through Connell’s brilliant prose, Mrs Bridge, infuriating as she can be with her anti-feminism, casual racism, and lifelong inertia, becomes one of the most relatable characters ever encountered in fiction.
Review by Shannon Bowring, Technical Services Coordinator.
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