“On the morning of April 8, 1965, Robert Kincaid locked the door to his small two-room apartment on the third floor of a rambling house in Bellingham, Washington.”
My goodness this little novel is almost good. The opening two chapters, which introduce the characters and the basic situation are well-rendered and reasonably narrated. There’s a lot of heart in this book too, and a good plot, and a real yearning and bittersweetness to it that works so well. Until it doesn’t.
When I was a kid, this book was everywhere. You could buy it in grocery stores. It came with America Online disks. There were 200 copies in every used bookstore. And complacent and chubby husbands? Beware! If your wife is reading this book, it’s already too late.
It’s also just steamy enough to work.
So the plot here is that Francesca, an Italian woman who married an American GI, is living in Madison Co, Iowa, when one morning Robert Kincaid, a lanky, long-haired wiry National Geographic photographer shows up on her doorstop one morning asking for directions to the nearest covered bridge, which he’s been commissioned to photograph. Instantly attracted to him and with her family out of town for a farm competition, she tells him and then tags along for a ride. There’s an instant attraction, and we already know that Robert is a photographer who’s worked in warzones and has no real home and fell in love with the art, and has some rugged individualism in his deepest core was also instantly attracted as well.
They circle each other, and fall in love, and have an intense and short-lived affair. If you’re interested in the book, I will leave it there.
So what went wrong? My god the ethos. Well actually Robert Kincaid’s ethos is fine. He sees himself as the last cowboy, which ok, whatever. But we get pages and pages of his vision, which includes lamentations on robots! I am not kidding. And worse, the whole basic idea is told to us multiple times.
This is a deeply offensive book on the sin of “tell, don’t show”. There’s a perfectly good story here, but this is a delivery system for Robert james Waller’s jeremiad about the modern world. Well, jeremiad is not right, funeral dirge.