Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs is the second novel I have read by Richard Russo; the first one being Empire Falls. I love the idea of epic novels and simple, wonderful story-telling. I think Russo's are those type of books even though they may tend to run a little slow at times. I listened to this one on a whopping 21 CDs, and it took me almost two months to finish. I can't even imagine how long it would have taken me to read the 536 pages, or if I would have had the patience to continue through the slow parts. But Bridge of Sighs is a wonderful story that immediately gets the reader invested in all the characters as you learn about them over a span of 50 years.

Being that the weather is Cleveland is finally beautiful, I'm opting to take the cheater way out of my review today so I can go out and play. But I will first say that I loved this book. The following is from Publisher's Weekly.

"Bridge of Sighs is 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."