Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell is a deceptively simple story. On the surface it might seem to be just another story of a woman, rather a portrait of a woman, and a housewife at that, told in over one hundred brief and discrete chapters.
Mrs. Bridge to a very large extent could very-well be any Indian housewife (without the household chores) – with her suppressed desires, yearnings and longings, while focusing entirely on taking care of her family, in this case Mr. Bridge and her three children. She is a Kansas City housewife who spends her days shopping, visiting, and playing bridge. Her housework is taken care of by the maid. Her husband works long hours. Her children grow up as children often do.
The book traverses the so-called journey of a woman – from childhood to when she got married to how she lives and that is what is most appealing. The writing at times feels thread-bare but as the reader continues reading the book, the opinion changes drastically. Connell takes the book to a point also when the reader starts pitying the protagonist. It is then that the book seems to be frightening in its own way.
Connell is a master of the highest order. His prose is as crisp as it gets. He does not believe in wasting words and that is evident throughout the book. Mrs. Bridge never sees herself the way she wants to. She always sees herself the way others would – from her country-club friends to her husband to her children. The time also in which the novel is set is important. Set in the decades surrounding World War I and World War II, it reeks of change and yet juxtaposes monotony in the protagonist’s life.
Mrs. Bridge is such a character who will not even admit to herself what she goes through and the characterization done by Connell is excellent. Mr. Bridge is hardly present in the book (he later appears though in another book called Mr. Bridge, but that’s another review). The prose is biting. You may not be an affluent housewife and yet you will connect to the character in more than one way. Mrs. Bridge cannot assert any kind of individuality in her life and I was overwhelmed a little reading those parts. I would recommend Mrs. Bridge only if you want to read something to shake you up a bit. It sure will.