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Bridge of Sighs: A Novel

by

Bridge of Sighs: A Novel Cover

 

Staff Pick

Russo is a modern master of absorbing characters, brilliantly sharp dialogue, and a warm-hearted yet strangely thrilling storytelling style. The only sighs this elegiac novel produces are of wistful satisfaction.
Recommended by Chris Bolton, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Six years after the best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning Empire Falls, Richard Russo returns with a novel that expands even further his widely heralded achievement.

Louis Charles ("Lucy") Lynch has spent all his sixty years in upstate Thomaston, New York, married to the same woman, Sarah, for forty of them, their son now a grown man. Like his late, beloved father, Lucy is an optimist, though he's had plenty of reasons not to be — chief among them his mother, still indomitably alive. Yet it was her shrewdness, combined with that Lynch optimism, that had propelled them years ago to the right side of the tracks and created an "empire" of convenience stores about to be passed on to the next generation.

Lucy and Sarah are also preparing for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy, where his oldest friend, a renowned painter, has exiled himself far from anything they'd known in childhood. In fact, the exact nature of their friendship is one of the many mysteries Lucy hopes to untangle in the "history" he's writing of his hometown and family. And with his story interspersed with that of Noonan, the native son who'd fled so long ago, the destinies building up around both of them (and Sarah, too) are relentless, constantly surprising, and utterly revealing.

Bridge of Sighs is classic Russo, coursing with small-town rhythms and the claims of family, yet it is brilliantly enlarged by an expatriate whose motivations and experiences — often contrary, sometimes not — prove every bit as mesmerizing as they resonate through these richly different lives. Here is a town, as well as a world, defined by magnificent and nearly devastating contradictions.

Review:

"Signature Reviewed by Jeffrey Frank Richard Russo's portraits of smalltown life may be read not only as fine novels but as invaluable guides to the economic decline of the American Northeast. Russo was reared in Gloversville, N.Y. (which got its name from the gloves no longer manufactured there), and a lot of mid — 20th-century Gloversville can be found in his earlier fiction (Mohawk; The Risk Pool). It reappears in Bridge of Sighs, Russo's splendid chronicle of life in the hollowed-out town of Thomaston, N.Y., where a tannery's runoff is slowly spreading carcinogenic ruin.At the novel's center is Lou C. Lynch (his middle initial wins him the unfortunate, lasting nickname 'Lucy'), but the narrative, which covers more than a half-century, also unfolds through the eyes of Lou's somewhat distant and tormented friend, Bobby Marconi, as well as Sarah Berg, a gifted artist who Lou marries and who loves Bobby, too. The lives of the Lynches, the Bergs and the Marconis intersect in various ways, few of them happy; each family has its share of woe. Lou's father, a genial milkman, is bound for obsolescence and leads his wife into a life of shopkeeping; Bobby's family is being damaged by an abusive father. Sarah moves between two parents: a schoolteacher father with grandiose literary dreams and a scandal in his past and a mother who lives in Long Island and leads a life that is far from exemplary. Russo weaves all of this together with great sureness, expertly planting clues — and explosives, too — knowing just when and how they will be discovered or detonate at the proper time. Incidents from youth — a savage beating, a misunderstood homosexual advance, a loveless seduction — have repercussions that last far into adulthood. Thomaston itself becomes a sort of extended family, whose unhappy members include the owners of the tannery who eventually face ruin.Bridge of Sighs is a melancholy book; the title refers to a painting that Bobby is making (he becomes a celebrated artist) and the Venetian landmark, but also to the sadness that pervades even the most contented lives. Lou, writing about himself and his dying, blue-collar town, thinks that 'the loss of a place isn't really so different from the loss of a person. Both disappear without permission, leaving the self diminished, in need of testimony and evidence.' If there are false notes, they come with Russo's portrayal of African-Americans, who too often speak like stock characters: ('Doan be given me that hairy eyeball like you doan believe, 'cause I know better,' says one). But Russo has a deep and real understanding of stifled ambitions and the secrets people keep, sometimes forever. Bridge of Sighs, on every page, is largehearted, vividly populated and filled with life from America's recent, still vanishing past. Jeffrey Frank's books include The Columnist and Bad Publicity. His novel, Trudy Hopedale, was published in July by Simon & Schuster. " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Richard Russo was already the patron saint of small-town fiction, but with his new novel, 'Bridge of Sighs' — his first since the Pulitzer Prize-winning 'Empire Falls' — he's produced his most American story. Once again he places us in a finely drawn community that's unable to adjust to economic changes, and with insight and sensitivity he describes ordinary people struggling to get by. But more... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"Here is the novel Russo was born to write....It is a seamless interweaving of childhood memories, tragic incidents, and unforgettable dialogue that is so natural, funny, and touching that it may, perhaps, be the best of Russo's many gifts." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"That Russo manages to juggle so many characters, themes, places, and time periods through 528 delicious pages is an astounding achievement. From its lovely beginning to its exquisite, perfect end, Russo has written a masterpiece." The Boston Globe

Review:

"[E]ngrossing....Russo writes about these characters...with such warmth that, whether it turns out to be a hellhole or heaven on earth, you're grateful to be back on his turf. (Grade: B+)" Entertainment Weekly

Review:

"It is a novel of great warmth, charm and intimacy, but not one of earth-shattering revelations....Some of this book's most memorable moments take the form of sharp, funny storytelling. Some emerge more amorphously through intuitive visions." Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Review:

"[Russo's] most ambitious and best work....It's a big-hearted novel, driven by vivid and complex characters....Bridge of Sighs is dramatic in a small town kind of way, which is a big part of its beauty." USA Today

Review:

"Despite the fact that its title points us to the familiar Venetian span, Bridge of Sighs settles us firmly in Richard Russo territory....Russo here is doing what he does best, putting a microscope over what looks like vacant territory and showing us the abundant life beneath the surface." Miami Herald

Review:

"While Russo's tale gets off to a slow start and the attempt to tell the parallel stories of Louis and Bobby is not always successful, Russo's novel is nevertheless a winning story of the strange ways that parents and children, lovers and friends connect and thrive." Library Journal

Review:

"While perhaps not quite the equal of Empire Falls, Bridge of Sighs is anchored by the wry humor and innate decency Russo brings to his characters....And nobody does upstate New York...better than Russo." The Christian Science Monitor

Review:

"[I]n the course of this enormous and enormously moving novel, I was continually seduced by Russo's insight and gentle humor, his ability to discern the ways we love and frustrate each other." Ron Charles, The Washington Post Book World

Review:

"[A]bsorbing, bittersweet and multifaceted....[Russo] masterfully reconciles and interweaves local color and social mobility with pertinent characterization..." The San Diego Union-Tribune

Review:

"Russo makes all his characters come alive on the page. In so doing, yet again, he provides the kind of compelling company any serious reader of fiction knows doesn't come along often." Chicago Sun-Times

Review:

"As you reach the end, you want to turn back to the opening pages and start once again. Russo's ability to present individuals with dignity and grace make this a quietly astounding novel that should be on everyone's fall reading list." BookReporter.com

Synopsis:

Six years after his bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning Empire Falls, Russo returns with a novel that expands his widely heralded achievement. This new work courses with small-town rhythms and the claims of family, yet it is brilliantly enlarged by an expatriate whose motivations and experiences prove every bit as mesmerizing as they resonate through these richly different lives.

Synopsis:

Tommy Ogden, a Gatsbyesque character living in a mansion outside robber-baron-era Chicago, declines to give his wife the money to commission a bust of herself from the French master Rodin and announces instead his intention to endow a boys school. Ogdens decision reverberates years later in the life of Lee Goodell, whose coming of age is at the heart of Ward Justs emotionally potent new novel. 

Lees life decisionsto become a sculptor, to sojourn in the mean streets of the South Side, to marry into the haute-intellectual culture of Hyde Parkplay out against the crude glamour of midcentury Chicago. Justs signature skill of conveying emotional heft with few words is put into play as Lee confronts the meaning of his four years at Ogden Hall School under the purview, in the school library, of a bust known as Rodins Debutante. And, especially, as he meets again a childhood friend, the victim of a brutal sexual assault of which she has no memory. It was a crime marking the end of Lees boyhood and the beginning of his understandingso powerfully under the surface of Justs masterly storythat how and what we remember add up to nothing less than our very lives.

About the Author

Richard Russo lives with his wife in coastal Maine.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 5 comments:

Chris Johnson, June 3, 2008 (view all comments by Chris Johnson)
Richard Russo continues to explore the interactions between love, friendship, and family. I think this is his most ambitious book so far, and I give him full marks for challenging himself and his readers. The Bridge of Sighs is a bridge in Venice over which prisoners used to pass on their way to prison, often seeing Venice for the last time. Russo skillfully manages this as a metaphor throughout the book, while also pulling together apparently independent threads of narrative. The first half of the book is a dead-on description of the trials of junior high school in '50s - '70s America, which had me squirming with recognition, and was the highlight of the book for me.

Russo chose as his primary narrative the first-person account of Lou C. Lynch. In keeping with the character's personality, the writing is generally plain, straightforward prose. In one sense, this is a real accomplishment because it so perfectly fits the character. On the other hand, as others have commented, it makes for slow going at times. Not all of the book is narrated by Lynch. Parts of the book feature an omniscient narrator (or two, I sometimes felt - a Thomaston narrator and a Noonan narrator). This shifting perspective is necessary for the plot, but is sometimes awkward. Unlike Russo's other novels, the ending of Bridge of Sighs seemed aimless to me and left me disappointed. If you've read and enjoyed any of his other books, you should read Bridge of Sighs. If you are new to Richard Russo, I would recommend Nobody's Fool or Empire Falls as a better place to start.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(17 of 26 readers found this comment helpful)
K Bloom, December 24, 2007 (view all comments by K Bloom)
This was a beautifully written book in my opinion. Okay. It is not a thriller and it doesn't come with all the lovable loser main characters that we have come to love in Russo's earlier works. Many people here have complained about the book not having "likeable" characters and that they are "stale and boring". I believe the main character was too nice and therefore some readers resented that. Too bad. There must be many people like him (even if I don't know any), but who cares. It's the storytelling that counts. This is a different Richard Russo book in some respects and I'm very happy to have read it.Good for him and us too! I'd also recommend reading Tino Georgiou's bestselling novel--The Fates--if you haven't yet
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(19 of 43 readers found this comment helpful)
bohola1959, November 29, 2007 (view all comments by bohola1959)
Having looked forward to another great read, I was disappointed. Though Mr. Russo is a great writer, I had trouble with the structure of the book and the repetitivenss of the characterizations. Had the book not been quite as long, perhaps I would have had the patience to ignore its faults.

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(20 of 39 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780375414954
Author:
Russo, Richard
Publisher:
Knopf Publishing Group
Author:
Just, Ward
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
City and town life
Subject:
Friendship
Subject:
New york (state)
Subject:
Italy
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
September 25, 2007
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
544
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 0.98 lb

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Related Subjects

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Bridge of Sighs: A Novel Used Hardcover
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$5.50 In Stock
Product details 544 pages Knopf Publishing Group - English 9780375414954 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Russo is a modern master of absorbing characters, brilliantly sharp dialogue, and a warm-hearted yet strangely thrilling storytelling style. The only sighs this elegiac novel produces are of wistful satisfaction.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Signature Reviewed by Jeffrey Frank Richard Russo's portraits of smalltown life may be read not only as fine novels but as invaluable guides to the economic decline of the American Northeast. Russo was reared in Gloversville, N.Y. (which got its name from the gloves no longer manufactured there), and a lot of mid — 20th-century Gloversville can be found in his earlier fiction (Mohawk; The Risk Pool). It reappears in Bridge of Sighs, Russo's splendid chronicle of life in the hollowed-out town of Thomaston, N.Y., where a tannery's runoff is slowly spreading carcinogenic ruin.At the novel's center is Lou C. Lynch (his middle initial wins him the unfortunate, lasting nickname 'Lucy'), but the narrative, which covers more than a half-century, also unfolds through the eyes of Lou's somewhat distant and tormented friend, Bobby Marconi, as well as Sarah Berg, a gifted artist who Lou marries and who loves Bobby, too. The lives of the Lynches, the Bergs and the Marconis intersect in various ways, few of them happy; each family has its share of woe. Lou's father, a genial milkman, is bound for obsolescence and leads his wife into a life of shopkeeping; Bobby's family is being damaged by an abusive father. Sarah moves between two parents: a schoolteacher father with grandiose literary dreams and a scandal in his past and a mother who lives in Long Island and leads a life that is far from exemplary. Russo weaves all of this together with great sureness, expertly planting clues — and explosives, too — knowing just when and how they will be discovered or detonate at the proper time. Incidents from youth — a savage beating, a misunderstood homosexual advance, a loveless seduction — have repercussions that last far into adulthood. Thomaston itself becomes a sort of extended family, whose unhappy members include the owners of the tannery who eventually face ruin.Bridge of Sighs is a melancholy book; the title refers to a painting that Bobby is making (he becomes a celebrated artist) and the Venetian landmark, but also to the sadness that pervades even the most contented lives. Lou, writing about himself and his dying, blue-collar town, thinks that 'the loss of a place isn't really so different from the loss of a person. Both disappear without permission, leaving the self diminished, in need of testimony and evidence.' If there are false notes, they come with Russo's portrayal of African-Americans, who too often speak like stock characters: ('Doan be given me that hairy eyeball like you doan believe, 'cause I know better,' says one). But Russo has a deep and real understanding of stifled ambitions and the secrets people keep, sometimes forever. Bridge of Sighs, on every page, is largehearted, vividly populated and filled with life from America's recent, still vanishing past. Jeffrey Frank's books include The Columnist and Bad Publicity. His novel, Trudy Hopedale, was published in July by Simon & Schuster. " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Here is the novel Russo was born to write....It is a seamless interweaving of childhood memories, tragic incidents, and unforgettable dialogue that is so natural, funny, and touching that it may, perhaps, be the best of Russo's many gifts."
"Review" by , "That Russo manages to juggle so many characters, themes, places, and time periods through 528 delicious pages is an astounding achievement. From its lovely beginning to its exquisite, perfect end, Russo has written a masterpiece."
"Review" by , "[E]ngrossing....Russo writes about these characters...with such warmth that, whether it turns out to be a hellhole or heaven on earth, you're grateful to be back on his turf. (Grade: B+)"
"Review" by , "It is a novel of great warmth, charm and intimacy, but not one of earth-shattering revelations....Some of this book's most memorable moments take the form of sharp, funny storytelling. Some emerge more amorphously through intuitive visions."
"Review" by , "[Russo's] most ambitious and best work....It's a big-hearted novel, driven by vivid and complex characters....Bridge of Sighs is dramatic in a small town kind of way, which is a big part of its beauty."
"Review" by , "Despite the fact that its title points us to the familiar Venetian span, Bridge of Sighs settles us firmly in Richard Russo territory....Russo here is doing what he does best, putting a microscope over what looks like vacant territory and showing us the abundant life beneath the surface."
"Review" by , "While Russo's tale gets off to a slow start and the attempt to tell the parallel stories of Louis and Bobby is not always successful, Russo's novel is nevertheless a winning story of the strange ways that parents and children, lovers and friends connect and thrive."
"Review" by , "While perhaps not quite the equal of Empire Falls, Bridge of Sighs is anchored by the wry humor and innate decency Russo brings to his characters....And nobody does upstate New York...better than Russo."
"Review" by , "[I]n the course of this enormous and enormously moving novel, I was continually seduced by Russo's insight and gentle humor, his ability to discern the ways we love and frustrate each other."
"Review" by , "[A]bsorbing, bittersweet and multifaceted....[Russo] masterfully reconciles and interweaves local color and social mobility with pertinent characterization..."
"Review" by , "Russo makes all his characters come alive on the page. In so doing, yet again, he provides the kind of compelling company any serious reader of fiction knows doesn't come along often."
"Review" by , "As you reach the end, you want to turn back to the opening pages and start once again. Russo's ability to present individuals with dignity and grace make this a quietly astounding novel that should be on everyone's fall reading list."
"Synopsis" by , Six years after his bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning Empire Falls, Russo returns with a novel that expands his widely heralded achievement. This new work courses with small-town rhythms and the claims of family, yet it is brilliantly enlarged by an expatriate whose motivations and experiences prove every bit as mesmerizing as they resonate through these richly different lives.
"Synopsis" by ,
Tommy Ogden, a Gatsbyesque character living in a mansion outside robber-baron-era Chicago, declines to give his wife the money to commission a bust of herself from the French master Rodin and announces instead his intention to endow a boys school. Ogdens decision reverberates years later in the life of Lee Goodell, whose coming of age is at the heart of Ward Justs emotionally potent new novel. 

Lees life decisionsto become a sculptor, to sojourn in the mean streets of the South Side, to marry into the haute-intellectual culture of Hyde Parkplay out against the crude glamour of midcentury Chicago. Justs signature skill of conveying emotional heft with few words is put into play as Lee confronts the meaning of his four years at Ogden Hall School under the purview, in the school library, of a bust known as Rodins Debutante. And, especially, as he meets again a childhood friend, the victim of a brutal sexual assault of which she has no memory. It was a crime marking the end of Lees boyhood and the beginning of his understandingso powerfully under the surface of Justs masterly storythat how and what we remember add up to nothing less than our very lives.

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