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Bridge of Sighs: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – August 12, 2008
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Amazon Significant Seven, November 2007: Richard Russo's first book since the Pulitzer Prize-winning Empire Falls, Bridge of Sighs is a typically stunning portrait of three small town families struggling--like the town itself--to strike a balance between obsessively embracing their own history or shunning it entirely, with devastating consequences along both paths. Bridge of Sighs is pure Russo: funny, heartbreaking, and ringing completely true. --Jon Foro
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
SignatureReviewed by Jeffrey FrankRichard Russo's portraits of smalltown life may be read not only as fine novels but as invaluable guides to the economic decline of the American Northeast. Russo was reared in Gloversville, N.Y. (which got its name from the gloves no longer manufactured there), and a lot of mid–20th-century Gloversville can be found in his earlier fiction (Mohawk; The Risk Pool). It reappears in Bridge of Sighs, Russo's splendid chronicle of life in the hollowed-out town of Thomaston, N.Y., where a tannery's runoff is slowly spreading carcinogenic ruin.At the novel's center is Lou C. Lynch (his middle initial wins him the unfortunate, lasting nickname Lucy), but the narrative, which covers more than a half-century, also unfolds through the eyes of Lou's somewhat distant and tormented friend, Bobby Marconi, as well as Sarah Berg, a gifted artist who Lou marries and who loves Bobby, too. The lives of the Lynches, the Bergs and the Marconis intersect in various ways, few of them happy; each family has its share of woe. Lou's father, a genial milkman, is bound for obsolescence and leads his wife into a life of shopkeeping; Bobby's family is being damaged by an abusive father. Sarah moves between two parents: a schoolteacher father with grandiose literary dreams and a scandal in his past and a mother who lives in Long Island and leads a life that is far from exemplary. Russo weaves all of this together with great sureness, expertly planting clues—and explosives, too—knowing just when and how they will be discovered or detonate at the proper time. Incidents from youth—a savage beating, a misunderstood homosexual advance, a loveless seduction—have repercussions that last far into adulthood. Thomaston itself becomes a sort of extended family, whose unhappy members include the owners of the tannery who eventually face ruin.Bridge of Sighs is a melancholy book; the title refers to a painting that Bobby is making (he becomes a celebrated artist) and the Venetian landmark, but also to the sadness that pervades even the most contented lives. Lou, writing about himself and his dying, blue-collar town, thinks that the loss of a place isn't really so different from the loss of a person. Both disappear without permission, leaving the self diminished, in need of testimony and evidence. If there are false notes, they come with Russo's portrayal of African-Americans, who too often speak like stock characters: (Doan be given me that hairy eyeball like you doan believe, 'cause I know better, says one). But Russo has a deep and real understanding of stifled ambitions and the secrets people keep, sometimes forever. Bridge of Sighs, on every page, is largehearted, vividly populated and filled with life from America's recent, still vanishing past.Jeffrey Frank's books include The Columnist and Bad Publicity. His novel, Trudy Hopedale, was published in July by Simon & Schuster.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
Russo's talent sparks the reader's empathy----not sympathy----of characters and situations. There is no "gripping" plot. A negative critic could suggest that it is 500 pages of mundane development. I was charmed by the entire content.
There is no need for me to report the plotline here. Readers that enjoy good fiction will surely enjoy this "realism" novel if they give it a try.
The author does an outstanding job showing small-town life in a place that had seen better days. He creates believable scenarios and people who wrestle with their hopes, fears, joys, insecurities, class conflicts, desires, and regrets. Even the secondary characters are well-rounded individuals with good and bad traits. Very few of the people who inhabit Mr. Russo's world are either just good or evil. The only one who comes to mind is Buddy Nurt; a guy who's a walking poster child for birth control. The author does an especially good job of depicting the mindsets of young people growing into their maturity. Sex scenes are presented in a restrained manner. Mr. Russo sure is no Philip Roth, which is a good thing in this case. Graphic sex scenes would've disrupted the overall tone of the book.
All the people who inhabit Mr. Russo's work were interesting. I found myself reflecting a lot about episodes in the book and the perspectives presented. 'Bridges of Sighs' is a big thoughtful novel about blue-collar life. It helped remind me that everybody has a mixture of struggles and joys in their seemingly ordinary lives. No one is immune.
1. He does ordinary people in realistic situations. He does them without condescending because he plainly and simply cares for his characters and understands them with the kind of honest love that the mother and wife in this book show.
2. He is a master at structuring. He will set up a situation and 200 pages later deliver the punchline seamlessly. John Irving can do this as well, but the list grows short after that.
Bridge of Sighs delivers a good slice of human truth, presented by characters who are unforgettable - unforgettable because at some level we have known them all our lives.
This is a beautiful book. Worth a second read.