The bridges of Madison County

I finished reading ‘The bridges of Madison County’ by Robert James Waller yesterday. I bought this book at the recommendation of my cousin, and I must say I was touched by it. Again, it is a tragic story, portrayed in the most beautiful of ways.

Note: Plot revealed.

It is a romance novel. It is a very different kind of story; at least very different from the usual romance novels I have read so far. The story revolves around the heroine Francesca, who is married to a farmer, Richard. Francesca lives in Madison County, which is famous for its covered bridges. Photographer-writer Robert Kincaid comes to Madison County to shoot the bridges, as he is doing a story on them for a magazine. When he is looking for a certain bridge, he loses his way and stops at Francesca’s house to ask for directions. And then, the inevitable happens. They fall in love with each other.

Francesca and Richard’s marriage has not exactly turned sour, but they have indeed drifted apart. There is a poet’s soul within Francesca, which has never been understood by Richard or by the local people. So, Francesca cannot help falling for Robert, with his poetic ways, his intellect, passion for life, elegance, and courteous mannerism, quite unlike that of country people. Both of them realize, in the course of their conversations, that they are soul mates, made for each other. Richard is away with their two children, Carolyn and Michael, to a cattle exhibition, and Francesca invites Robert over for dinner. Francesca and Robert have a four-day affair, and these four days turn out to be the most beautiful and memorable days of their lives.

One would assume that Francesca left Richard and their kids to go away with Robert, but, no, she does not. She stays back, broken-hearted, while a tearful Robert goes back to Washington, where he came from. Francesca and Robert think of each other almost every waking moment after that, but they neither talk nor write to each other. The only exception is the call that Francesca places to Robert after Richard passes away. However, she is not able to reach him. Then, years later, Robert passes away, and asks for his most prized possessions, his cameras, to be sent to Francesca.

When Francesca dies, she asks for her ashes to be scattered in the same river where she knows Robert’s have been. She leaves Robert’s cameras and the letter from Robert she received after his death to her to her two children. Before her death, she writes down the story of her affair with Robert, describing why he was so special to her, so that her children understand it the way she does, which they read and understand after her passing away.

Some quotes from the book that I loved:

In a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once, and never again, no matter how many lifetimes you live.

Here I am walking around with another person inside of me.

I don’t like feeling sorry for myself. That’s not who I am. And most of the time, I don’t feel that way. Instead, I am grateful for having at least found you. We could have flashed by one another like two pieces of cosmic dust.

God or the universe or whatever one chooses to label the great systems of balance and order does not recognise Earth-time. To the universe, four days is no different than four billion light years. I try to keep that in mind.

~ Robert Kincaid to Francesca

Looked at without the ‘ethical-unethical’ angle, I would say it is the most romantic thing I have read in quite some time. The description of the romance between Francesca and Robert and their emotions is wonderful, tragic and haunting. I loved the book, and now, I am all set to read the epilogue ‘A thousand country roads’.

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24 Comments

Filed under Love, Reading Ramana

24 responses to “The bridges of Madison County

  1. I have infact seen the movie. And loved it too. A suttle calmness about the whole movie there was. And i heard that reading the book is a better experience ..

  2. me

    Was tempted to read the plot :)… I was moved by the summarized version so much that now I will not dare to read the book… Few books should remain unread..

  3. priyaiyer

    @vinod

    oh, its a beautiful book. yep, it indeed is very subtle and poetic. i am glad i read the book before i saw the movie. 🙂

    @me

    🙂 well, had i been you, i would have read the plot too. 😀 btw, u should read the book. it is beautiful.

  4. hey I liked the line “Here I am walking around with another person inside of me.” a lot.. I think I might read this..next time when I am in mood for some romance literature 🙂

  5. priyaiyer

    @rambler

    i loved that one too. btw, i liked all of the book. its so very subtle, so very romantic. do read it if you get a chance. 🙂

  6. Me

    idhu yaaru pudhu “me”…

  7. priyaiyer

    @me

    new friend, me 🙂 now there are 2 rahuls and 2 mes. sometimes beri kaanfusing….

  8. i m not reading this…i will read the book rather 🙂

    thank u for the recommendation!

  9. Yeap. This one was damn good. Do you like Ernest hemmingway?

  10. BTW..actually..Why Francesca and Richard drift apart ? any strong reasons ?…bcoz if no strong reasons given for it..then Richard dhan romba pavam even though if Francesca decides to stay with him… 😦

  11. priyaiyer

    @veens

    yep, pls do so and lemme know how u found it. u’ll love it if you like romance. 🙂

    @vijay ganesh

    nope, i havent had the chance to read hemingway yet. will check out. 🙂

    @sn

    there are no specific reasons mentioned in the book as to why francesca and richard drift apart. i guess they were too different in personality and tastes. francesca is more an artistic-minded person, who likes poetry and reading, while richard is more of a farm person, who loves football games and stuff like that. he is more of a country person, lacking the grace and elegance that francesca posseses. they just drift apart naturally, the kind of drifting apart that happens between two people who are too different basically, with the passage of time. there is absolutely no lack of affection or care on the part of both.

    francesca desperately wants to go off with robert, but she refrains, bound by a sense of responsibility towards richard and the children. moreover, she believes that richard would break apart if she leaves him. he is just too used to having her around. also, there is the threat that richard would have to face sneers from the local people if francesca went off with robert. it might destroy him.

    yes, richard paavam daan. though francesca stays with him in person, she is not there with him in mind, in spirit. she’s with robert. in her letter to her children explaining her affair with robert, she says, “I think Richard knew there was something in me he could not reach. Just before he died, I was sitting by him in a Des Moines hospital, and he said this to me: ‘Francesca, I know you have had your own dreams, too. I’m sorry I couldn’t give them to you.’ That was the most touching moment of our lives together.”

    actually all three of them are paavam. 😦 che! enna oru tragedy… 😦

  12. I know its all about ‘her’ but I loved movies… Clint Eastwood & Meryl Streep two of the best.

    this book & movie highlights(my belief)– Life is not all about choices its about priorities.

  13. priyaiyer

    @yuva

    yep, thats very true. thanks for the link again. 🙂

  14. the movie turned out to be awesome. stars two of my most favourite actors Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep.

    i love the whole scene where Streep invites Eastwood to home and makes ice lemon tea for him. and the conversation between the two is so interesting.

  15. priyaiyer

    @liju

    i havnt seen the movie, but i loved the book.

    btw, welcome to UP! 🙂

  16. Hi
    The book is pleasingly small, immensely readable and profound in its impact. I just read it last month and tried a review for whatever is it worth. This stands posted on my blog. Maybe, you’d like to have a glance.

    Oh yes, your review is short and exactly incisive.

    Thanks

    Nanda
    http://ramblingnanda.blogspot.com
    http://remixoforchid.blogspot.com

  17. priyaiyer

    @nanda sir

    it was a pleasure going through your blog and knowing about the books you have authored. thanks for visiting UP and for leaving a comment. welcome here. i am glad you liked the review. 🙂

  18. Pingback: A thousand country roads « uniquely priya

  19. LOIS CLEMENTE

    I LOVED WHAT YOU DID…YOU MADE THE WHOLE BOOK SUMMED UP INTO A FEW PARAGRAPHS…WHILE I WAS READING I REMEMBER THE MOVIE…IT WAS INDEED BEAUTIFUL AND AN ABSOLUTE TEAR-JERKER…LIKE YOU I LOVED THAT LINE…IT WAS REAL, TRUE AND PURE. HOPE THE NEXT TIME I VISIT YOUR SITE THERE WERE MORE STORIES TO SHARE.

    glad you liked it, lois! i just loved the book, and it will always remain one of my favourites… welcome here and keep visiting! 🙂

  20. sheila

    trying to find out what poem the line “To ancient evenings and distant music” comes from, that is said when Robert and Francesca are toasting their glasses.

  21. priyaiyer

    @sheila

    thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment! 🙂
    no idea from which poem the line is from.. but it is an awesome line indeed.. 🙂

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