Bridge of Sighs is an example of Richard Russo’s skill in taking the seemingly mundane everyday lives of Americans and creating an engrossing, intimate portrayal of their hopes and frustrated dreams. The story is largely based on the rather self-indulgent reflections of Lou C Lynch, or Lucy. Reflections that appear at first completely unjustified as he has, on the face of it, lived a relatively unextraordinary life. The small town of Thomaston, which he brings to life with melancholic devotion, also appears on the surface of very little interest compared to any other. However, Russo’s magic lies in drawing you close to a world that you would otherwise overlook, to reveal their intricacies and hidden nuances; depths that hook you in as the inhabitants play out their lives, each decorated with their own individual tragedies.
Lucy is the exemplification of the American dream as his family, alongside that of his supposed friend Bobby Marconi, move up through the social strata laid bare by claustrophobic Thomaston, a town divided into the impoverished West End, the up-and-coming East End and the society heights of The Borough. The book opens with Lucy walking through his hometown, where he has become a sedate well-respected big fish in a little, polluted pond. The fact the town is poisoned by the tannery industry, specifically run by Borough residents the Beverleys, perhaps reflects Russo’s opinion of the poisoned-chalice offering of the American dream. That the poisoning is permitted to happen over the course of the book illustrates the cloying inertia of the town, unwilling to disrupt the safety of the established order and rise up against injustices, a point that is only too well made by the brutal beating of a young black boy while half the school looks on.
The love of the town by Lou Lynch, despite his good nature, gradually elicits an intense frustration as his narrow vision is exposed by the adventures and innate flare of Bobby Marconi and the Lynch-muted under-accomplishments of his brilliant wife. Certain qualities of Lucy are admirable, and are attributes that you wish you could see more in people. He is kind, patient, and accepting, bearing no prejudices and treating all those around him as equals. His family also provide a warm sanctuary in an unforgiving world. The reader becomes well aware that the family fortunes can easily slip in the opposite direction as the Lynch family, led by formidable matriarch Tessa, continually fight the dragging tide that threatens to pull them back westwards. However, Lucy’s persistence in attaching land and people to him, together with his passivity, is intensely frustrating at times as you yearn for certain characters, particularly the women like his mother and Sarah, to break free and flourish sticking one finger up at Thomaston in the process. This is indeed what Bobby Marconi does and this in my opinion makes him the hero of the book.
At times, despite Russo’s obvious craftsmanship, it is hard to keep involved with this slow-paced book, especially as you may fall out of love with Lucy as his less-than-shining personality is exposed by a story of his own telling. However, you will be left with a warm regard for the subtle nuances of American society, of people’s psychologies in an unforgiving world, and appreciate the danger of unquestioned, self-limiting horizons.
By Kate Vickers
Join us for a special tea party to celebrate 20 years of the Gruffalo
Friday 10th May at 10am
There will be stories, songs and tasty treats -all pre-school children are welcome!
This event is free but booking is essential – to book, either email us: email@example.com, phone us: 0161 747 7442, or call in to the shop
Green Bean & Friends are coming to visit Urmston Bookshop on Wednesday 17th July 2019 at 10.30am. Come along on the morning. call 0161 747 7442 for more information.
On the day, little ones aged one to seven years will enjoy discovering the fun adventures of Green Bean through an educational storytime session.
Green Bean is a fictional character and the title character from the Green Bean Collection, which is now on sale within Urmston Bookshop, we have available both the board book and paperback gift sets along with the adorable character soft toys.
- The Binding by Bridget Collins
The binding is a highly original, beautifully descriptive novel that serves to immerse you in an alternate historical world where memories, distasteful and painful, can be gently teased away and bound securely into the pages of highly coveted, richly decorated books. In our world, where books are a treasured source of pleasure and knowledge, the concept that they are produced at the expense of someone’s mind, and arguably their soul, is imaginative and intriguing.
We are introduced to this world through the eyes of Emmett Farmer, exiled to an isolated marshland with only Seredith for company, an aged binder that sees in Emmett something he does not yet comprehend. We share in his acute disorientation, a feeling that is magnified by a deep-seated sense that something is missing, an absence that is woven throughout the opening chapters. Although this creates a desire to read on and soak up the hints delicately scattered through the narrative, it is at the sacrifice of the characters themselves who at first seem somewhat flat and unrounded. His family appears hard and two-dimensional as we, like Emmett, lack the understanding of what drives their actions. It also creates a prolonged, slow-paced beginning that may put some readers off.
However, the much-awaited, pivotal point in the novel quickly remedies this.
The pace quickens as the characters, so lovingly penciled by Collins, become flushed with colour and the story blossoms into the engrossing tale of forbidden passion and enduring love that it truly is. The mysterious backdrop of the dark, macabre world they inhabit also unfolds beautifully, proving the perfect stage on which to explore how the practice of binding can be wielded and exploited with stunning cruelty.
Although certain characters do persist in an underdeveloped state, and aspects such as the binding process and allusions to witchcraft are not fully explored, these prove redundant as you become embroiled in a love affair between two delightfully contrasting characters. The descriptive elements are also spellbinding, and you will find yourself reading over sentences to fully appreciate their composition. This is a unique novel and you will be rewarded for venturing into a story that is crafted with such evident love, dedication and imagination.
Review by Kate Vickers