Posted by: istop4books | July 26, 2009

The Bridge to Nowhere or Bridge of Sighs, by Richard Russo

This book was the July book club read, which I volunteered to monitor. Big mistake. We had agreed to not read anything longer than 400 pages, so that if someone didn’t particularly like the book, the writing style, the genre, they’d be able to get through it quickly. This book was LONG. and repetitive, overindulgent, pompous and badly in need of a heavy handed editor. I get the feeling that I will walk into book club next Tuesday, and of the 12 women there only 2 or 3 of us will have finished this book. And I got it. I know where Russo is coming from, and he made some very impressive points in the book. His characters were excellent, his descriptions detailed – it’s just that they were TMI – too much unimportant information. When Nan slides into a booth with Bobby, Russo describes the guy in the kitchen flipping burgers who slides into the booth next to them, and Nan’s reaction to him. That’s fine – but he took a page and a half to describe the short order cook/loser kinda guy.

bridge-of-sighs-in-venice“This is the actual Bridge of Sighs in Venice (Ponte dei Sospiri).  It spans the narrow Rio Di Palazzo and connects Doge Palace and Saint Mark’s Square to prison cells on the other side.  This bridge was the last view a prisoner would have before being  thrown into the cells, and as they crossed the bridge they would sigh, knowing that without money or power all hope was lost.   Built in the early 1600s.  Russo says, “I will cross this Bridge of Sighs even though I now realize Sarah won’t be there to greet me.  On the other side of the bridge is profound darkness, but I’m not afraid.  Whatever lies beyond the Bridge of Sighs will be my new life.”

I LOVE good, long books. The thoughtful, the thoughtless and the dense ones. But this was a bridge to nowhere at times. Bobby’s banishment was spoken about in one of the first chapters and the reason was clear within the first 100 pages – only to be spelled out in the last 50 pages or so. Russo wrote chapter after chapter about one set of characters, dropped them, only to pick them up 200 pages later in another chapter. Huh? Who? In any case – the parent/child relationship, the ties that bind, the decisions that alter our lives forever, pride, family secrets and their consequences, prejudice, are all explored. Living in a small town, following in your parents’ footsteps – taking in the good the bad and the ugly are all well captured.    But within all the long 656 pages, there were also many unanswered questions.   Who is the real Lucy, for example?  There was no resolution with Tessa and her whereabouts that Lucy pondered over, the final scene is also not clear at all, either by writer’s mistake or journalist/reporter’s mistake.  The town was in dire straits, deteriorating quickly but the small town was less an additional character than a backdrop to the other characters.  The other characters were weak and not a one of them was likeable, which made the book hard to endure. Of note though: Not one woman is a strong character. They are all flawed, either indecisive, jumping into bed, unfaithful or some mix of the above. The blacks all spoke with accents – there was not an educated black character in the book, and the women were all victims. Maybe I should rate this one a 2?

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