The Bridges of Madison County
By Robert James Waller
Grand Central Publishing
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Probably the most irresistible love-story formula is that of true love lost, along the lines of Romeo and Juliet, Gone with the Wind, and Titanic. The Bridges of Madison County, a monster hit of the early 1990s, is that kind of torturous melodrama, writ small. Very small. Because lone wolf photographer Robert Kincaid has only four adulterous days to spend with shy Iowa farmhouse wife Francesca Johnson before her husband returns from the state fair with the kids in tow. The novella-sized affair feels much longer than it actually is, mostly because Francesca spends a lot of time gazing at her lover, who is described, by turns, as a "leopard," "peregrine," "shaman," and "star-creature." The worldly loner melts under this adoration and ends up begging her to run away with him to a safari-adventure life in exotic locales all over the world. "We'll make love in the desert sand and drink brandy on balconies in Mombasa, watching dhows from Arabia run up their sails in the first wind of morning. I'll show you lion country and an old French city on the Bay of Bengal." Alas, Francesca keeps fast to her Midwestern family values. She lets the love of her life (who will, as a result, stay true to her until he draws his last breath) drive away in his truck without her, while leaving it up to her diary to confess the affair to her children after her death. --Sumi Hahn Almquist
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