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’.