"The Bridges of Madison County"
by Robert James Waller
Published in 1992, The Bridges of Madison County is set in 1960s Iowa. It is the fictional account of an affair conducted between a lonely housewife and a traveling photographer. It was one of the best selling novels of the twentieth century -
Because there is no accounting for taste.
Let me preface with the reason I picked this book off the Goodwill shelf. I have noticed that, to date, my reviews have been confined to the genre of Young Adult literature. I thought to myself, 'Self, you have no credibility without a wider palette!' 'Self!' I said, 'You must broaden your horizons! You must read books for grown ups!'
And for the sake of this blog, I finished it. I read the whole thing, and wiped the tears from my eyes at the end. I could not stop crying -
Because I couldn't stop laughing.
I could go on about the boredom that settles into the reader's soul when the only driving force of the plot is a sexual tension based entirely on animal magnetism. This is not a couple reunited, for a missed connection, or a slow awakening. It's a, 'I'm bored, you're bored, let's do this'.
I could go on about the lack of motive, the unrealistic passion of the protagonist when weighed against her claim to love her family (which is somehow more important in the end, but not in the beginning?).
I could get snarky about the, ahem, 'adult' moments.
But what I really took away from the book was the real reason I adore young adult literature. Young adults, you see, are not naive and unaware of what is important in life. They understand complexity, and they can weigh conflicting needs and desires. Young adults are able to recognize short term urgency and long term importance. A good YA book will offer real dilemmas, real consequences, and measurable (positive or negative) character growth.
What this book, with its claim to Real Grown Up Fiction, did was appeal to the most base instincts of the average, world-weary adult. It is an escape, the most purely selfish act that an adult can commit. Nothing about either character indicates their hope of pleasure for the other person, or anything more than a hormonal affection. It is the account of four days spent in complete self-absorption.
I laughed, and laughed, and laughed. Then I wanted the two hours of my life back.
In Summary? It's a D minus. Why not an F, you ask? Because I always give credit for correct punctuation. I'm not unreasonable. :)
Next week! Review and Book Giveaway!