The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller is a book I often claim I have read because I am sure that I have. Having now read it for my 60 Books in 60 Years challenge I am convinced that I have never read it before because I would have surely remembered this absolute gem of a book. It’s a short novel with little plot but it is wonderfully written and I found it very moving indeed.
Francesca is a farm wife in rural America in a county famous for its covered bridges. She has had a good life but often feels that she has never been completely fulfilled. She is alone on the farm while her husband and children are away at an agricultural show when she meets Robert. Robert is a freelance photographer, always trying to refine his art, but taking pictures for magazines to earn money. He’s a man with no ties who does what he wants when he wants and lives life on his own terms. When Francesca and Robert meet they realise that the other is the person that has been missing all their lives. They spend a week together but are faced with a choice as to whether they can break up Francesca’s family or whether they must part, possibly forever.
I am not a great fan of books where the main characters commit adultery so it is a tribute to this writer that I not only ignored the immorality of what they did but actually wanted them to have more opportunities to do it. This is a story about finding your one great love and although I am not sure that I believe in that concept I would like it to be true. If it were true then it would look like the relationship in this book. The writer had me totally believing that this is what true love looks like.
This is not a soppy story and the author includes other points of view about what happened and what it meant to the main characters so that we don’t just see everything through their lives. I almost read it in one sitting because I was so gripped, even though you know from the beginning that this is not necessarily going to end with a happy ever after moment. Apparently there is a film of the book but I haven’t seen it.