The Bridges of Madison County (book)

covered bridge photo bears a “cancellation” stamp saying “a novel”
Image is stamped “a novel”

In the Bridges of Madison County, Robert James Waller wraps a novelette inside two faked author’s notes.

The novel’s central story is about photographer Robert Kincaid, who arrives in Madison County, Iowa, to photograph its seven covered bridges for National Geographic.

He meets Francesca Johnson, a farmer’s wife and mother to two teenagers. Husband and children are at the state fair.

Their attraction is instantaneous. Their passionate affair lasts until its time for the family to come home.

Francesca chooses her family over her lover, and regrets it all the rest of her life. An “afterward” section to the story shows Robert also regretted losing her for the rest of his life.

After Francesca’s death, her children find her handwritten story of the affair. The “author’s preface” says the children gave the author Francesca’s materials and he fleshed it out.

The aura of true romance provided by the faked authors notes made the slender novel a natural for movie treatment: Clint Eastwood directed and starred in the 1995 film, that has an 87% audience score on RottenTomatoes.

The best—and worst—that can be said of the novel is that it’s pleasant entertainment with sex left to the reader’s imagination.

The Bridges of Madison County
by Robert James Waller
Warner Books. ©1992. 171 p.
1993 bestseller #1; 1994 bestseller #9.
My grade: B+

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni