Mrs. Bridge Is a Perfect Novel. But How Does It Work?

Emily Temple in Lit Hub:

For years, I resisted Mrs. Bridge. I remember picking up the 50th-anniversary edition from a display of staff picks at McNally-Jackson; someone had just been gushing to me about how great it was, and at least one staff member seemed to agree: the suggestion card was crammed with cramped praise. But I was turned off by the cover, which seemed altogether too misty and domestic, an impression that the description did nothing to disabuse: this was a Classic American Novel, a slice-of-life “family story” about a wealthy woman living in Kansas City between the First and Second World Wars. It was the 1959 debut novel of a writer I’d never heard of otherwise, a white guy named Evan S. Connell. Meh, I thought.

I finally read it for the first time this year, after what must have been the hundredth recommendation from someone I trusted. It only took me about ten pages to realize what an idiot I had been. Meh, indeed. This novel is glorious.

But even as I read, enthralled, once and then a second time, I couldn’t quite figure out why. There’s no obvious reason Mrs. Bridge should be so good, especially if like me, you’re officially bored by the broad thematic strokes outlined above.

More here.