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Alexander's Bridge

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  1,158 ratings  ·  167 reviews
Bartley Alexander, a construction engineer, is a middle-aged man torn between Winifred, his demanding American wife, and Hilda Burgoyne, his alluring British mistress. Alexander's relationship with Hilda erodes his sense of honor and eventually proves disastrous when a bridge he is constructing begins to collapse. Alexander's Bridge is an instructive, thought-provoking stu ...more
Paperback, 196 pages
Published July 1st 2008 by Classic Books Library (first published 1912)
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104 books — 52 voters
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94 books — 11 voters

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3.38  · 
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 ·  1,158 ratings  ·  167 reviews

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In 2014, I enjoyed O Pioneers! (the first book of Willa Cather's The Great Plains Trilogy) so much that this year I decided to read Alexander's Bridge in honour of her December birthday. This remarkable story is an impressive first novel which exhibits, for a young author, a surprisingly mature understanding of human psychology.

The story revolves around Bartley Alexander, a stellar civil engineer with an international reputation as a bridge-builder. Alexander is introduced to the reader as a con
Feb 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: babble-added
A man is caught between the marriage of his adulthood and the love affair from his youth, loving both and realizing having both is not possible. The bridge can be an obvious metaphor but instead of the usual symbol overshadowed by the divisions it joins or the obstacles it crosses, there was some actual engineering speak. I approve.

I haven't read much of Willa Cather's works so I'm not sure how it compares to her other writings, or to that of other authors. I guess I could say she does paint her
Barry Pierce
In the preface to this edition Willa Cather writes, "Alexander's Bridge was my first novel, and does not deal with the kind of subject-matter in which I now find myself most at home." She spends the rest of the preface apologising for its existence. I feel Cather is far too tough on herself for this novel, because I rather enjoyed it.

The plot is very simple. A man has an affair and can't live with it. That's basically it. This novel has the unique claim of the main character being a bridge-make
Meredith Holley
Dec 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Princess Bridge
It is scientifically proven that Willa Cather is my favorite ever, so I took the opportunity over winter break to read this little gem. For a variety of reasons, I have stacks and stacks of books that I want to read because I think they will be terrible, or because someone recommended them to me so I feel an obligation. I often forget to read books I think I will love. And, you know, I think a lot of why I do that is because often I love the terrible books or the recommended books, and they are ...more
Jun 07, 2018 rated it liked it
As it was Cather, I wanted so much to like this more than I did. The writing was alright and given it was her first novel, she undoubtedly learned much and honed her skill evident in later writings. It is worth reading. It is quick as it is very short; a novella really. Not difficult, but also not particularly inspiring. Maybe I would like it better if I could forget, My Ántonia, or, Death Comes for the Archbishop, but who can?

Having recently read and enjoyed the first novels of two other autho
Richard Derus
Rating: 2* of five

It's vintage romantic fiction with a definite twist of Cather. That's not enough, I'm afraid, to overcome the mundane mid-life crisis/affair plot's unimaginative development. Strictly formulaic, and the characters were stock characters, and the settings...Canada? London?...weren't of any great interest to Cather so therefore fail to engross the reader as well.

But Cather. Yes indeed, she was already headed down the Prose Turnpike to Lapidaryland. It's to one's taste or it isn't,
Steven Walle
Apr 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a thought provoking read.
More later.
Enjoy and Be Blessed.
Chris Wolak
Dec 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my second reading of Alexander's Bridge. When I first read this novel I was in my mid-20s and saw Alexander as a tragic hero. Now, in my mid-40s, it speaks to me as a cautionary tale of what can happen when you lead a life of action without reflection. It seems that Alexander has lost touch with who he is and what he wants. I see him as a victim of his inability to be true to himself.

In some ways, Alexander's plight made me think of a recent cartoon making the rounds on Facebook: “Insid
Oct 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, literature
“Alexander’s Bridge”, published in 1912 is the first novel by Willa Cather, though it should probably be considered a novella. It is a fairly quick read, but unfortunately it lacks depth and is overly simplistic. The title character is Bartley Alexander an engineer of bridges. He is married to Winifried Alexander, a loving and supportive wife who would appear to be a sufficient companion for any man. But Bartley hits a mid-life crisis, and finds himself in an affair with Hilda Burgoyne, a woman ...more
At the end of my first year at university, the day after the final exam, I paid my first visit to the literature shelves in the basement of the university library. There were only a few shelves, because I was at university that - at the time - had no arts faculty. Those shelves didn't look entirely promising, but there was a small run of green Virago Modern Classics. Half a dozen books by the same author; an author I hadn't heard of before.

That was my introduction to Willa Cather.

I picked up the
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Even though this book is sad I loved it. I forget just how good Cather is until I read or reread something she wrote.
Jan 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Willa Cather is one of the authors who I am determined to read a lot more of this year. I already have several waiting to be read, I feel she is a writer that I have so far neglected a little bit.

Alexander’s Bridge was Willa Cather’s first novel, published in 1912, it is quite different to O! Pioneers – her second novel and the first of her Prairie trilogy that she is perhaps best known for and depicts Pioneer life in Nebraska.

In 1907 the great new cantilever bridge that was being built over the
Moonlight Reader
Barely more than a novella, Alexander’s Bridge is Cather’s first novel. It is always interesting to see the seeds of genius in an author’s early work, and this book is primarily interesting for that reason. The story itself is a bit of wish-fulfillment: set internationally, in London, Canada and New York, the main character Bartley Alexander is a man of accomplishment.

The preface to my edition was written by Willa Cather herself, in 1922, and begins:

It is difficult to comply with the publisher’s
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I could not WAIT to put down some thoughts and comments about this book. I listened to this audiobook book while working and the first thing I'm doing upon hitting the door is this review. To simply say I enjoyed it is an understatement. I was into this book like the latest episode of a much loved series or soap opera. I was "tuned in". Who knew? I sure didn't. Who knew that in 1912 (re-released in 1922 says Wiki) they were getting down and scandalous like this! I thought it was all prim and pro ...more
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, americana, 1910s
This is a light and easy read, but certainly not up to standards as O Pioneers! or My Antonia. The characters were not developed in depth and I didn't have emotional connection to Bartley by the end. I'm not sure if I truly understood his character. Perhaps if the story was longer, and there was actual conflict between Bartley and Winifred, some stronger characters would have been created. More time was spent on the relationship between Barley and Hilda, and their relationship seemed far simpler ...more
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A story of an engineer in a mid-life crisis. Construction, and love, and death. What more could you want in a tightly-plotted novella. The writing is often so good that I wanted to give pause, but kept going for the sake of the story. Even though the ending is sort of apparent, just as with other good stories, you hope against hope that it may be different. I'm a huge fan of novellas, and don't read enough of them.
Ralph Bardsley
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good read. Plot is a little anemic at points, but description is wonderful as it is in every Cather book I have ever read.
A powerful portrait of a man in crisis - midlife crisis - and his attempts to feel young again while still holding on to his present life and responsibilities. As he gets further caught in his desires, he loses control of things he worked hard for, amongst other things.

I didn't relate to Alexander's choices, but he didn't really frustrate me either. I understand why people say he's selfish - but I think Cather really showed a realistic portrayal of a human in earnest conflict, as well as the co
Marts  (Thinker)
Feb 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
The case of Bartley Alexander, an engineer who per chance meets his former lover Hilda, renewing their past love affairs. But Alexander is now married to Winifred who has helped throughout his professional life and is a devoted wife.

In this story we are reminded that sometimes in life we need to break the bridges down and just start all over again!!!
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: old-fiction
I absolutely love the way Willa Cather writes. Her descriptions people and places are so vivid, it makes it easy for me to put myself back in the time period she was writing in. In this case, the 1910's. This book is a short novel about American bridge-builder Bartley Alexander and his relationships with two women. One his wife, Winifred, and the other a stage actress in London he'd known in his younger days named Hilda. Without wanting to give too much away, confident & powerful Bartley end ...more
Ericka Clouther
Well, it was an interesting little story. The characters were underdeveloped- probably because the book was so short. The story itself was a bit too moralistic.
Jan 13, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quick, involving read! I forgot how much I liked watching these characters interact. I'm sure I'll be rereading it again in the future.
Feb 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-books
Chris of Wildmoo Books and Thomas of The Readers have inspired me to read more of Willa Cather. I had read 2 over the past couple of years and have decided to read the rest in order this year. I picked this up while on a book jaunt with some other Booktoopians; the Melville House Novella edition drew me to it. This is set on the east coast of the US as well as Europe and is the story of a bridge architect who loses his way personally and professionally. He is unable to make a decision and thus h ...more
A slight story with loads of drama at the end. Spoiler Alert. (view spoiler) ...more
May 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Willa Cather's first novel - my goal is to read all as since college and first reading of "My Antonia" she's one of my favorites. Written in 1912, amazingly it read as though it could be current. Apparently based on a factual event of a bridge collapse in Quebec, story of the bridge engineer, his happy marriage, his spirit which propels him to strive to 'go further', his Irish mistress, problem with loving two women at once. Mid-life crisis? A wonderful first effort by a young author - I look fo ...more
Oct 31, 2011 rated it it was ok
I have loved reading Willa Cather over the years. But I was quite disappointed with Alexander's Bridge. I never seemed to grab me. I couldn't identify with any of the characters. I've vowed to only read one tragedy a year and unfortunately this is the second in six months, so I believe I've already hit my plimsoll line on depressing books. The only saving grace to this book was that it was so short that by the time I realized it was a tragedy it was pretty much over. How's that for giving away t ...more
Devyn Duffy
Dec 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
A short and simple story of a sort-of midlife crisis. The description doesn't do it justice because the characters are good, likeable people. Bartley Alexander has a successful life but is no longer quite sure that he's living the life that he wants. By story's end he may or may not find out.

As short as the story is, it might be a good introduction to Willa Cather, one of the greatest American writers.
Sidik Fofana
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
SIX WORD REVIEWS: Affairs can lead to broken bridges.
Andrew Sydlik
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-novels, own
Willa Cather’s first novel—though I would say it’s short enough to qualify as a novella—includes a number of thematic elements that will appear in her later, more famous works: a protagonist with unique intelligence and capacity for life, whose skill surpasses most of their peers; disasters and sudden acts of violence (murder in O Pioneers!; a train accident in Song of the Lark); struggles with marriage and infidelity. As in her other fiction, she demonstrates a knack for fleshing out characters ...more
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2015 Reading Chal...: Alexander's Bridge by Willa Cather 1 6 Mar 27, 2015 03:26PM  

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Wilella Sibert Cather was born in Back Creek Valley (Gore), Virginia, in December 7, 1873.

She grew up in Virginia and Nebraska. She then attended the University of Nebraska, initially planning to become a physician, but after writing an article for the Nebraska State Journal, she became a regular contributor to this journal. Because of this, she changed her major and graduated with a bachelor's d
“No one can build his security upon the nobleness of another person.” 36 likes
“Are you going to let me love you a little, Bartley?” 0 likes
More quotes…