In 1959, there was Mrs Bridge. Ten years later, we had her husband’s side of the story. Mr Bridge is a companion novel, set in the same timeline, describing the lives of a well-off suburban family in the 1930s. As before, there is an existentialist thread running through the story.
Walter Bridge is the archetypal American family man. A lawyer who works long hours to keep a nice house and a servant, he spends little time with his wife and children. He’s expected to settle arguments, deal out punishments, take an interest in sports and have strong but fair opinions. Although he does spend a lot of time thinking about finance and investments, he is revealed to have a surprisingly interesting inner life, which no one else is aware of. All they see is a man who is prejudiced, unemotional and traditional. He is as trapped by society’s expectations of him, as the breadwinner and patriarch, as Mrs Bridge is by her role of mother and hostess.
Inevitably this novel is not as immediately gripping as Mrs Bridge, partly because the writing style is already familiar and partly because it’s longer, therefore seeming less readable. The ending is not as good. I would recommend it if you enjoyed Mrs Bridge and want to read about the family from her husband’s perspective. You might consider reading both books if you’re looking for lesser-known American classics.
First published in 1969. This edition was published in 2019 by Penguin with an afterword by Lionel Shriver.
Thank you to my mum for sending the book to me in the post.