Friday, September 11, 2009

"Bridge of Sighs"

By Richard Russo
656 pages
Published August 2008 by Knopf, Doubleday Publishing Group

Lou C. Lynch has spent his entire life in the small town of Thomaston, New York. But now his wife, Sarah, has convinced him to take a trip to Italy to see Lucy's (Lou C.--get it?!) former best friend and rival for Sarah's affections. The idea of this trip causes Lucy to take a trip down memory lane and he begins writing his memoir.

Over 600 pages of memoir about a guy who has never left his small town doesn't sound like much of a basis for a book. And it might not be in lessor hands. But this is Richard Russo we're talking about here. There are a lot of stories in this book--Luce's, Luce's parents, Sarah and Bobby. It's also the story of growing up in a small town, dealing with bullies, racism, alcoholism, spousal abuse, and infidelity.

What I liked about this one--Russo made Thomaston come alive. I could visualize the town; the dynamics between the citizens were true to life. I really liked the relationship between Lucy's parents and the store that the family liked felt like stores that I have been in. Russo switchs voices from the voice of young Lucy to old Lucy, school-aged Bobby to young Bobby in a way that only Russo could make work. He introduces a tremendous number of characters and few of them feel one-dimensional.

What I didn't like: I felt like a few parts could have been cut from the story without hurting it. There is a long part that tells about Sarah's visits to stay with her mother in the summers. It seemed to be there just to set up some of the latter part of the book, but I didn't think that part was necessary either. There was also a part of the book that dealt with Lucy and Sarah's high school years when Lucy and Bobby had Sarah's father for a teacher. The story also swings back and forth into Bobby's time in Venice and those parts did seem a little disjointed from the rest of the book although they ultimately tied back in to the rest of the story.

Overall, I liked this story; it was beautifully written. I just wish it had been 150 pages shorter.

9 comments:

  1. Sounds good. I do wish some books had more editing. I think editors leave certain authors alone, but sometimes less is more. Thanks for the review

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  2. I loved Empire Falls and am looking forward to reading this one. I'm glad to hear Russo's writing continues to be good. :-)

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  3. Oh, I saw Under the Tuscan sun a while ago. I think it was pretty good. :D

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  4. I agree. About 150 pages less would have made it a lot tighter. Apparently, it was trimmed down quite a bit before it was released and in an interview Russo said that since he has been working on screenplays, which have to be more 'to the point', he tends to go longer when it comes to his novels.

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  5. Looks interesting...I may give it a go someday!

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  7. Great review. I know what you mean about some books being just too long. I have this one yto read in my Russo section. So far I just read Emplire Falls and That Old Cape Magic, but loved them both.

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  8. Empire Falls will be my first taste of Russo but I've added this one to my list too. Great review on this!

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  9. I'm convinced there's a fine line between too long and not long enough--just not sure where that line is. I just finished Shadow of the Wind and really liked it, but same thing--could have done without 150 pages (and lots of details!). I've been wanting to read Russo--will probably start with Empire Falls.

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