Hey, look, I’m still reading Willa Cather! Are we surprised? I decided not to go in chronological order, so I’ve been jumping around her oeuvre. As a result, I’m reading her first novel among the last. It’s okay, though. Even though I don’t necessarily get a sense of Cather’s progression as a writer, I’m definitely enjoying the different facets of her writing style, particularly the early works. She’s earned a reputation as a Great Plains writer, but she’s definitely about more than just regionalism. She’s also very interested in the human psychological condition
Alexander’s Bridge does explore the complex facets of the individual psyche. Bartley Alexander is a successful engineer who has recently completed a bridge project in Canada. He is married to the very proper but cold Winifred, but he has also re-sparked his relationship with Hilda Burgoyne, an actress in London. His indecision between his marital duty and his desperation to recapture lost love will eventually take a tragic turn, as his bridge project threatens to implode. And that’s all I can really say without spoiling it for you.
At first, this was a three-star novel for me. But man, does Cather know how to bring you to a moment of crisis and d-r-a-w it out so that you are filled with suspense. That moment of high tension is almost too much to handle. So it got a one-star upgrade for that. While this was not my favorite read, it is a quick and interesting book to pick up. The characters are not the most intriguing, but Alexander’s moral quandary is resonant of someone torn between duty and love. And that’s an interesting conundrum.