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My favorite of the 11 short stories in ACROSS THE BRIDGE is the euponymous tale set in Paris sometime around the mid-20th Century. One is never sure of the exact date of one of Mavis Gallant's stories as they are so timeless. In "Across the Bridge" the heroine is engaged to be married, and at the last moment persuades her parents to call off the ceremony. The picture Gallant paints of white wedding invitations floating away in the Seine is quite startling and could have taken place at any time over the past 150 years.
Gallant's writing has been compared with that of Alice Munro with some justification. Both authors write short stories, sometimes linked to each other (as are several of the tales in ACROSS THE BRIDGE), frequently told from a woman's point of view, about family matters -- engagements, enduring and/or barely endured marriages, children wanted and unwanted, money worries, daughters whisked off to nunneries or other out-of-the-way place, unrequieted love, revenge -- and faith or lack of it.
Both women are Canadian authors, though Munro tends to write about the non-Gallic mostly Scots-descent Canadians whereas Gallant's stories are most often about French Canadienne or Parisienne protagonists. Munro and Gallant are both frequently published in the New Yorker Magazine, and most of the stories in ACROSS THE BRIDGE appeared in the New Yorker before being added to this collection.
Each of the tales told by Gallant this book is about rejection and acceptance. For example, in "A State of Affairs" the refugee status of a very elderly Polish Jew living in Paris following a WWII Nazi prison camp internment becomes imperiled when 'normal' relations are restored between Poland and France. In "The Fenton Child" a baby is both wanted and unwanted.
Gallant's writing is literate and compelling, and I find myself reflective after reading one of her stories. She does not feel a need to tie up loose ends or make the world seem better or worse than it really is. She has a gift for arousing empathy. Often, it seems to me, her stories include a relatively positive note. In "Across the Bridge" for example, at one point the young narrator says "It was a small secret, insignificant, but it belonged to the true life that was almost ready to let me in. And so it did, and yes, it made me happy."