Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Alexander's bridge (Cather) 339

Alexander's bridge was Cather's first novel. And it is a very different read to the Cather novels I've read to date. The principle character, Bartley Alexander, is a male, and the book lacks the concept of a strong female lead which seems to characterise the other books by Cather (admittedly I have not read even half of her work). The story is also simple and simply told, it is a slim volume.

Bartley Alexander is an engineer, with a specialism in bridges. He has forged a hugely successful career in America, and has a stunning, almost "trophy" wife, Winifred. But this would be no story. The book sees Alexander torn between this world and another, following a visit to London where he meets an old flame, Hilda who represents a different sort of life - more free and exciting (or is that because it is just different from the norm), and describes his ensuing mid-life crisis. The book has a sudden and shocking ending when a bridge that Alexander is working on collapses, killing him and many of those working on it in the process. But while it could be seen as retribution for Alexander's dilemma, Cather is clear to demonstrate that it is a genuine accident.

But I still enjoyed it, although perhaps not as much as O Pioneers or My Antonia. It's been published in two different green editions by Virago and I borrowed the more recent one from the library.


  1. Hi! I just discovered your blog, and it's an absolutely amazing resource. I've been collecting VMCs for some years (my eyes jump straight to them in second-hand bookshops), and have about 250 of the older green-spined ones. Whenever I look at ABE or Amazon for out-of-print VMCs, there's usually no blurb or description of what the book is about, so I don't know whether to take the plunge or not. Now I've printed off your whole blog so far and will use it to guide my future buying and reading. Fantastic stuff! Thank you.

  2. PS: I have to admit I did the printing at work, and used the binding machine to give it an appropriately olive-green cover.

  3. Hi JRSM, thank you so much for your very kind words - you're the second person this week to have made a comment on the value of it as a resource. I'm very nearly halfway through and it is growing all the time, although things may slow up somewhat...do please pop back! And I'd love to post a pic of your greeen bound print out if you fancied emailing it to me at verityDOTormeATgmailDOTcom