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Bridge of Sighs

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  15,327 ratings  ·  2,212 reviews
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 a
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published September 25th 2007 by Knopf (first published 2007)
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First the bad news: Russo, as one of the Great Male Narcissists (a term coined by D.F. Wallace who did not include Russo in his assessment)has probably been accused of both racism and misogyny and these allegations do have some merit.

I have read all of Richard Russo's books and I have greatly enjoyed them all. But I am troubled by the fact that often, if a female character isn't chasing you with a rolling pin, she's got your dick in her mouth. Crazed harridans and insatiable sluts make up the ma
With over 500 pages, and multidimensional profiles covering school days through to later years, a great writer like Russo can give you plenty to chew on. What I appreciated most was the rich contrast in character attitudes. Is it better to be an optimist offering the benefit of the doubt even if naively, or a pessimist giving the detriment of the doubt even if unfairly?

Two of the main characters were artists. This gave Russo the chance to use their works to help interpret the story. It also brou
Flashback to 1999: setting off on a 30-hour train ride between Halifax and London, ON, I pick up Russo's new novel Straight Man, on the recommendation of a bookseller friend. Enthralled all the way through the Maritimes and Quebec--laughing aloud in that half-empty compartment.

Once in London, I pick up The Risk Pool and Nobody's Fool, two of Russo's earlier books. And love them, esp. Nobody's Fool, which must surely be Russo's best work. A few years later, in Ithaca, NY, I eagerly purchase his n
When I finished reading Richard Russo's wonderful novel Empire Falls (for which he won the Pulitzer), I wondered - how will this novelist do this again? Turns out, he just keeps getting better. One thing I've always admired about Russo is his ability to write about small towns in a way that honors the provincial nature of small town life while exploring all of its intricacies and nuances, its complexity and heartache - the way a person can live a wide life in the smallest of ponds. Perhaps this ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
There is a stone bridge in Venice, Italy they call the Bridge of Sighs. it connects the Doge's Palace in St. Mark's Square, where there are interrogation rooms, to an adjacent prison. Crossing this bridge, the convicts - at least the ones without money or influence - came to understand that all hope was lost. According to legend, their despairing sighs could be heard echoing in the neighboring canals.

Strangely enough, I never felt that "all hope was lost" while reading this book. Quite the contr
This is the story of Lou C. Lynch (aka Lucy, unfortunately) who grew up in upstate New York before Civil Rights and the women's movement. The setting and the characters will remind you of Russo's previous work Empire Falls, again borrowing from his own biography. As Lou and his wife Sarah prepare for a trip to Italy, he is remembering the childhood friend whom they hope to visit... also recalling his very average, very middle class childhood, going from life in the rough and gritty West End part ...more
I was a little apprehensive about this book after reading the press it received. I knew I would enjoy it, but I seeing that involved a middle-aged man reflecting on his life in a dying New England town, I feared a retread of Empire Falls.

I couldn't have been more wrong. Many of the elements you would expect from Russo are there, the quiet politics of small towns, the relationship between parents and children and even the tainted river are all present. But Russo expands on these and builds them i
This might be my longest review ever. Here we go, in bullet points...

1. I like Russo's work a lot, esp. Straight Man, Nobody's Fool, and Risk Pool. Nobody writes about rundown small towns better than Russo. In the three books already mentioned Russo doesn't overshoot his purpose; he's funny and psychologically incisive without becoming ponderous, although he can be rightfully accused of painting a rosier picture than his settings warrant. Bridge of Sighs, also set in a small town, aims higher an
Nov 23, 2008 Karen rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: very patient people who enjoyed Empire Falls
The Bridge of Sighs is one long-ass bridge. I suppose once you win a Pulitzer Prize, you don't have to submit to pesky things like editing. In this case, though, it would have been beneficial. The book was too long, and weirdly repetitive. I still dig Russo's writing, for the most part, and the way he can describe all the unspoken things that go on within people's relationships. That's amazing. But I was done with the book about 200 pages before he was. I finished, but only because I had some fo ...more
I really love Richard Russo and really enjoyed this book but felt it went on a little too long at the end -- like a good friend who you love to spend time with but who stays maybe a day longer than he should because as much as you love him you've got work to do. And yet, you can hardly be too upset because this friend says things like:"[T]here is, despite our wild imaginings, only one life. The ghostly others, no matter how real they seem, no matter how badly we need them, are phantoms. The one ...more
Nancy (Hrdcovers)

Is this what Richard Russo is trying to tell us in picking out the title of this book? Are you also someone who tries to analyze the title of each book you read as I do? Built in the 16th century in Venice, The Bridge of Sighs is the last thing a prisoner walks over before reaching his cell. The idea behind the name is that the last view a convict sees before imprisonment is a beautiful Venetian canal which must cause him to sigh at its beauty, never to be seen again until
May 12, 2008 Jeremy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jeremy by: Josh Bucher
This is Russo's best book.

He does a couple things in this book that are impressive on both a technical and human level.

That Russo can lovingly create deep and human characters has been established in all of his novels. What's truly amazing about Bridge of Sighs is the amount of depth he gives to nearly every character in the book. At the beginning of the novel we see the story from the perspective of only a couple characters. During this time, many of the characters seem predictable and shallow,
Eric Kibler
This was my first Russo novel and won't be the last.

Sometimes the dynamic of a family in a small town makes for the some of the most interesting stories. In the beginning, it is teased that the main action of the story may move to Venice (as the title implies), but that never really happens. This story is about a small town in New York, and the coming of age (and old age) of Louis C. ("Lucy") Lynch. It's also about his wife, his best friend, his parents, small town prejudices, and how love is co
I am a huge fan of Richard Russo, so I wanted to love this one. Although, as usual, Russo paints a vivid picture of small town life, somehow the story never grabbed me. Centered on Lou "Lucy" Lynch, a typical Russo lovable loser, we hear the story of his life in a class-conscious upstate New York town. We also get snippets of the life of his best friend, a painter in Venice who escaped the small town. But the story, while solidly told, is never particularly moving. Nothing much happens, and ther ...more
Reading this book is like slipping on your favorite pair of jeans- the ones you never wash to keep them perfect softly and loose, donning a beloved sweatshirt and thinking "I wish I lived the sort of life that I could wear these clothes every day..." Meaning that (if you like Russo, of course) these characters, this setting, the storyline are so comforting and familiar- it's like coming home.

Which isn't to say that there aren't surprises, that it isn't fresh, nuanced and captivating. It's a been
Nov 28, 2007 Gunjan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone ready to devote some time and attention to a story about our future.
what is it about these apparently ordinary people that would make anyone persist in believing them to be extraordinary? and they are. that's really the meat and bones of the story. i urge you to read it if you have the time, interest, and patience.

some favorite passages/quotes:

"The middle, she said, was the real America, the America that mattered, the America that was worth fighting wars to defend. There was just the one problem with being in the fluid middle. You could move up, as we had done,
Oh my STARS!!!!!!!! I am finally done -- thank GOD. This is the longest book in the history of mankind. It was good, but not good enough to read every single word. No one REALLY cares about EVERY SINGLE thought and EVERY SINGLE memory of EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER. OH MY GOD. I honestly skimmed the last 30 pages; I couldn't take it anymore. I AM SO GLAD IT IS OVER.
Russo's story is set in a small, decaying town. His main characters include decent, ineffective men who are trapped there, and smarter women who see the town for what it is, but are equally trapped. He's worked this territory before, and in my opinion, better in other books. An editor could have tightened up the prose and made this an outstanding story.

Even so, the story still drew me in, and sometimes I couldn't put it down. Two boyhood friends are now 60 years old. The narrative shifts betwee
absolutely brilliant...
russo is very nearly the most important american novelist currently working...

this book is all about the vertiginous...
the deep disorientation and confusion that results from exposure to two very different points of view...
this concept is explored in so many compelling ways through the juxtaposition of black and white, hope to despair, love to hate...
the idea is made that much more complex by the notion of equivocation...the act of attempting to find and establ
Hmm. Well, Empire Falls this was not - it lacked the freshness and colorful characters and small town charm, though Russo tried valiantly to capture that in this book - it just felt flat to me somehow, like he knew that he was supposed to be incorporating that but it just wasn't working.
The book was readable and at times engrossing, I can't say I wouldn't recommend it, but I had some issues with it. For one thing, Russo would have some insightful turns of phrase and then make sure to explain wha
Jason Pettus
(My full review of this book is much longer than GoodReads' word-count limitations. Find the entire essay at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [].)

As regular readers know, artistic criticism is something fairly new to me (or at least regular artistic criticism is), with the entire thing being as much of a learning process for me as it often is for you; and of all the new things I am learning about the subject these days, one of the most surprising is of just how st
As usual, Russo sticks to the proverbial ribs. That is, for me anyway, his stories stay with me. I find myself thinking about the characters long after I've finished the book in question & 'Bridge' is no exception.

Russo's greatest strength is an ability to create detailed, unique and real characters and there are many here. Spanning decades, various stories unfold, featuring a complex crossover of characters and episodes. It's a treat indeed to glimpse one incident from the perspectives of
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bobbi Woods
This book was a LONG one, but I really enjoyed it. The story is about a man recalling his childhood growing up in the small upstate NY town of Thomaston. I could relate to the whole "small ethnic town" thing and really took to each one of the characters who were developed extremely well in my opinion. It's complexity actually makes it difficult to write a review because so much happens that I don't know where to begin!

Lou (nickname Lucy) Lynch is a quiet, insecure boy who takes after his friendl
Mar 03, 2008 Chris rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Chris by: I can't think of anyone, but there is certainly a niche for this
Some say this is a novel about the American Dream, some say this is a novel about how families mold us into who we are. Russo supplies enough to make these cases and more.

But the most compelling theme in Bridge of Sighs is regret; or, as Russo puts it at least twice, "Is it more important to love or be loved?" Many layers of this question permeate throughout, the most interesting variation to me essentially asked which is more important given that people don’t change? Framed with the context of
Again, I wish we could have 1/2 star reviews. I'd rate a 3 1/2.

Russo explores the relationships of three (sort of four) families in an upper NY textile town. The story takes place as the factory is shutting down, industrial waste is causing widespread cancer, and working class families are focused on upward mobility in the post-war economy. This poor economy/American Dream dichotomy is indicative of the multi-faceted outlooks of the protagonists and their families who play supporting characters.
My dad gave me Empire Falls, and after whipping through that, he passed along Bridge of Sighs. While Russo is better known for Empire Falls, I liked Bridge of Sighs better. It was a little slow to start, but I got sucked in pretty easily after the first chapter or so. It's about a small town in upstate NY and the interactions of two boys as they grow up and apart and their relationship with a girl. Because the setting is similar to that of Empire Falls, I went in to this expecting a similar stor ...more
It took me about 100 pages to get interested, but I was glad I stuck with it. On the surface, it's a simple story of a 60-year-old man trying to understand his past as he contemplates his future. But it's much more complex than that. It contains rich layers of theme and meaning, addressing universal questions: What s family? What does it mean to love and be loved? How do I go about choosing the best path for my life? But it also tackles broader themes, like free will vs. fate, nature vs. nurture ...more
Richard Russo and I have a complicated relationship. He writes what he knows. He also writes about what I know. I'm territorial. It's complicated.

Sometimes this was a totally frustrating read. Telling the story from Lucy's perspective was the kind of thing I feel like I'd do as a challenge to myself but ultimately all of the parts that really swept along were Bobby or Sarah's parts. Plus I just have all of these mixed feelings about his women, and his blackpeopledialogue, and how things are jus
Aug 12, 2008 Dollie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Dollie by: Book Club Choice
I am not sure if it was because I had grown up in the area where this book takes place or if it was just a very good novel but after 528 pages, I still wanted more. I could have followed these lives and the following generations for a long time. I grew up in Troy NY and I noticed Richard Russo grew up in Gloversville, NY so I gather that is why it all felt so authentic. The town was fictional but I sure did recognize it as well as the characters. I have never read Mr. Russo's books before but I ...more
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Richard Russo (born July 15, 1949) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist. Born in Johnstown, New York, and raised in nearby Gloversville, he earned a B.A. (1967), a M.F.A. (1980), and a Ph.D. (1979) from the University of Arizona.

More about Richard Russo...
Empire Falls Straight Man Nobody's Fool That Old Cape Magic Elsewhere

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“Have you ever noticed that when people use the expression 'I have to say', what follows usually needn't be said?” 29 likes
“The line of gray along the horizon is brighter now, and with the coming light I feel a certainty: that there is, despite our wild imaginings, only one life. The ghostly others, no matter how real they seem, no matter how badly we need them, are phantoms. The one life we're left with is sufficient to fill and refill our imperfect hearts with joy, and then to shatter them. And it never, ever lets up.” 23 likes
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