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Mrs. Bridge: A Novel Paperback – September 1, 1990

4.5 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Before Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique there was Mrs. Bridge, an inspired novel set in the years around World War II that testified to the sapping ennui of an unexamined suburban life. India Bridge, the title character, has three children and a meticulous workaholic husband. She defends her dainty, untouched guest towels from son Douglas, who has the gall to dry his hands on one, and earnestly attempts to control her daughters with pronouncements such as "Now see here, young lady ... in the morning one doesn't wear earrings that dangle." Though her life is increasingly filled with leisure and plenty, she can't shuffle off vague feelings of dissatisfaction, confusion, and futility. Evan S. Connell, who also wrote the twinned novel Mr. Bridge, builds a world with tiny brushstrokes and short, telling vignettes.


"A hell of a portrait." --Wallace Stegner

"For all their satire and dark implications, the novels of the Bridge family remain in the memory as triumphs of faultless realism. Mr. Connell's art is one of restraint and perfect mimicry." --The New York Times

"The reissue of these classic American novels is an event to be celebrated.... Mr. and Mrs. Bridge are forever human, forever vulnerable, forever pitiable. In spare, whimsical, ironic prose, Connell exposes each and every one of their wrinkles and then, in the , offers them to us as human beings to be cherished." --Jonathan Yardley

Product Details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press (September 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865470561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865470569
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,780,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When I finished this book I started raving about it to all my friends. "What's it about?" they asked. "Um, this housewife in Kansas City." "Yeah, but what happens?" "Er... nothing really. She gets married and has kids and they grow up."
But trying to summarize "Mrs. Bridge" cannot evoke the brilliance and heartbreak of this novel. Evan Connell understands his characters so well that he simply lets them be, allows them to breathe. "Simply" is the wrong word; few writers are gifted enough to pull off an essentially plotless novel. But "Mrs. Bridge" is never boring.
Incidentally, another reviewer writes about wanting to smack Mrs. Bridge's face. Such a reaction is the exact opposite of mine. Yes, she is guilty of class and racial prejudices; yes, she is repressed. All those with no sins cast the first stone, or smack, and get on with your righteous lives. For the rest of us, it's hard not to sympathize with a woman who struggles all her life to do the right thing, despite having a vague sense that she has never learned the right thing. She longs for something else, something more, but she is barely aware of the longing.
Some day this book will achieve its rightful place as a masterpiece of American realist fiction. But you should read it before that.
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Format: Audio Cassette
Denounced in 1959 for not being a 'real' novel, Mrs. Bridge is judged differently these days--and rightly so. The novel is a compelling portrait of American suburban bourgeois life; reading it causes precisely the same claustrophobia Mrs. Bridge sometimes realizes she's suffering from. In a way, this is Sartre's La Nausee moved to Kansas City, but an easier read--almost deceptively so. Closing the book though doesn't really relieve the angst the reader shares with poor Mrs. Bridge in the final section (no I won't give it away)--this book is too real. Don't look for plot, don't look for cheap thrills, but do look for detail, look for the Real peeking into Mrs. Bridge's seemingly perfect life in the Imaginary.
I'll be brief: others have said plenty. Just one quick remark: Connell is a stylist of the highest order. His prose is crisp; style matches subject matter. Example: "It was necessary to be careful among people you did not know." Every sentence is carefully crafted to the point where grammar itself becomes a web of cleanliness, clear and transparent. It may seem nothing special, but Connell is a craftsman. All the more striking, both in grammar and in plot, are the few moments, aporia, where something else could have happened--such as when Mr. Bridge is breathlessly studying, in Paris, "a black lace brassiere with the tips cut off," a moment Mrs. Bridge returns to later with vague uneasiness.
I am glad I was recently introduced to Connell's work. It is a treasure trove, and it's a pity so few of his works are still in print. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some more of his novels to read: Deus Lo Volt! is next.
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Format: Paperback
Evan S. Connell's "Mrs. Bridge" is one of the truly outstanding works of Twentieth century American literature, a restrained, yet brilliantly wrought fictional portrait of upper middle class married life in the decades surrounding World War II. Connell tells the story of India Bridge in 117 short chapters, each a spare vignette of her enervated life in the perfectly manicured "country-club district" of an affluent Kansas City suburb. Linear in its narrative and meticulously realistic in its style, "Mrs. Bridge" follows India's life from marriage, to the birth of three children, to the rejection by those children of the repressed life of their parents as they grow into adults, to lonely suburban widowhood. While it is, at its heart, a grim tale of one woman's life of repression and, ultimately, loneliness and resignation, Connell's flawless and restrained narrative ultimately leaves the reader feeling exhilarated at the sheer literary achievement of "Mrs. Bridge".
Ostensibly the story of a marriage, Mr. Bridge is noticeably absent from much of the narrative. A successful lawyer, he is a man who is unable to express love or affection for his wife or his children, a man who is focussed on becoming "rich and successful," the epitome of the status-conscious husband and father whose identity lies in material possessions. "The family saw very little of him. It was not unusual for an entire week to pass without any of the children seeing him. On Sunday morning they would come downstairs and he . . . greeted them pleasantly and they responded deferentially, and a little wistfully because they missed him. Sensing this, he would redouble his efforts at the office in order to give them everything they wanted."
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Format: Paperback
Mrs. Bridge is perhaps the most vacuous and nondescript central character in any novel that I have encountered. She is the mother of three and the wife of a lawyer sufficiently successful for her to have a full-time colored maid/cook and a once-a-week laundress, freeing her for the PTA, meetings of the ladies' Auxiliary, country club engagements, and art classes. The qualities that she values above all others and seeks to instill in her children are nice manners, pleasant dispositions, and cleanliness. In any and every conversation, she can be counted on to supply vapid filler. And she will go to great lengths to gloss over the earthier things of life, especially with her children. For example, she took them to the wedding of a distant relative, where the bride walked down the aisle obviously pregnant - a circumstance that Mrs. Bridge could not bring herself to remark upon; three months later they received an announcement of the birth of a child, and Mrs. Bridge exclaimed, "Isn't that nice!", and then added for the benefit of her children (ages 14, 16, and 18), "First babies are so often premature." The great achievement of Evan S. Connell in MRS. BRIDGE is to limn such a pathetic existence in such a readable, engaging novel.

The novel spans about 25 years of India Bridge's life, from the time she gets married at age 26 (narrowly escaping, one senses, spinsterhood) to the time her youngest child is going off to war. It is set in an affluent section of Kansas City during the Twenties and Thirties. Mr. and Mrs. Bridge are thoroughly imbued with Midwestern Republican values, as are most of the secondary characters, their friends and neighbors. There are a few genuine eccentrics, but no one is particularly notable, much less admirable or heroic.
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