The Bridges of Madison County – Robert James Waller

The Bridges of Madison County is Robert James Waller’s highly popular novel, published in 1992, which has sold over 60 million copies worldwide. I’m not exaggerating if I say that this beautiful novel, best known for its film adaptation starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, blew my mind.


The Bridges of Madison County was a novel where I read each page slowly so that it would not end and tried to portray the characters one by one in all their details. However, I lost myself in between the lines and returned to myself, and when I reached inextricable places, it became like a guide for me. Unfortunately, like every good thing, it finished too soon, and when I finished it, I understood why it was so popular. We are all looking for the love in this book. We are all our choices.

The Bridges of Madison County has often been hailed as a vulgar romance book that was slammed and even mocked by critics. However, no one could stop the book from selling millions. The plot of The Bridges of Madison County is briefly as follows: a woman stuck in an ordinary marriage and a photographer asking her for directions fall in love and spend four days together. The book describes these four days and what happened after. Robert James Waller deftly and, like his character, magically describes the events through the eyes of both men and women. He neither overwhelms the reader with too much information nor gives up his poetry and simplicity.

The Bridges of Madison County

There are thousands of reasons why The Bridges of Madison County has impacted me and indeed millions of others. Even though I want to explain why it affects me like this, I think I can’t. What some books do to people cannot even be described; how strange.

Years ago, in a completely different book, a character was watching the film of this book. I researched the film at that time, and when I found the book, I immediately added it to my reading list. Even though it came to my mind from time to time, I couldn’t read it because life intervened and there were other books to read. It came back to me through something else in the past few days. Well, I had the time, and I thought I’ll watch the film later. And now, I believe in the magic of literature more than ever.

Halfway across The Bridges of Madison County, I understood why I needed to read this book now rather than earlier. How does life present such coincidences? Or do we call them into our lives with some kind of energy? I pondered these questions a lot. I thought about the effect of the books read at the right time on our lives. How destructive some can be, how constructive others can be. This book both destroyed and remade me. It turned into something miraculous, the enchantment of which I even voluntarily fell into.

Look, I told you that I couldn’t tell you why this book affected me, and really I can’t! When I read Mikhail Shishkin’s book, The Light and the Dark, I said, “Although writing is very good for the soul, it cannot replace touching or lying on your lover’s knees, and after a while, one finds himself struggling between what he wrote. On the other hand, Shishkin is a great novelist who struggles the better. And he grabs the readers who have experienced similar things.” It’s like I can’t get beyond struggling now, and unfortunately, I’m no Shishkin.

The Bridges of Madison County is a book that anyone who has ever found love will find themselves in it. I can’t even think of a person who is familiar with what happened and felt in the book but would not like this book. This is a novel that carries much more than its story; It’s like how we go to the past, swept away by the magic of music and the evocations of a scent. Oh, I can’t explain!

The Bridges of Madison County - Robert James Waller
The Bridges of Madison County - Robert James Waller

The Bridges of Madison County

The Bridges of Madison County: On assignment shooting the covered bridges in Iowa, photographer Robert Kincaid falls in love with the Iowa house wife, Francesca Johnson, during four days of love, magic, and beauty.

This is the story of Robert Kincaid, a wandering magazine photographer and free spirit searching for the covered bridges of Madison County, and Francesca Johnson, a farm wife born in Italy waiting for fulfillment of a girlhood dream. It shows readers what it is to love and be loved so intensely that life is never the same again.

When Robert Kincaid drives through the heat and dust of an Iowa summer and turns into Francesca Johnson’s farm lane looking for directions, the world-class photographer and the Iowa farm wife are joined in an experience of uncommon truth and stunning beauty that will haunt them forever.

Their encounter, fraught with dangers, survives only in their psyches. Both know that what could have been, should have been, could not be. Yet, hearts persist, tickling both characters’ minds. Both remember a few stolen moments when two souls sang in perfect harmony, but through circumstance must not sing again.

The Bridges of Madison County: The romantic classic of the 1990s.

Robert James Waller

Robert James Waller, (born August 1, 1939, Charles City, Iowa, U.S.—died March 10, 2017, Fredericksburg, Texas), American author who wrote the phenomenally popular romance novel The Bridges of Madison County (1991), which was the basis for the blockbuster 1995 movie of the same title, starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep.

Waller grew up in the small Iowa town of Rockford. He earned (1962) a bachelor’s degree in business education and (1964) a master’s degree in education from the State College of Iowa (now the University of Northern Iowa). He then attended Indiana University (Ph.D., 1968). He joined the faculty of the University of Northern Iowa in 1968, where he taught economics, applied math, and management and served (1980–86) as dean of the university’s business school.

In the early 1980s he began writing travel, nature, and personal essays for The Des Moines Register. Collections of those writings were published as Just Beyond the Firelight: Stories and Essays (1988) and One Good Road Is Enough (1990). He grew dissatisfied with his career over time, and in 1989 he took an unpaid leave of absence. Two years later he produced a study for the state, Iowa: Perspectives on Today and Tomorrow.

While photographing covered bridges in Iowa’s Madison County, Waller was suddenly struck with inspiration, and over a period of less than two weeks he penned The Bridges of Madison County. Set in the mid-1960s, it told the story of a middle-aged Italian war bride and farm wife, Francesca, whose passion is ignited by an itinerant photographer, Robert Kincaid.

The pair have an intense four-day affair before she chooses duty to her family over the pursuit of a new life with Kincaid. Critics generally panned the book, but it struck a note with many readers (among them Oprah Winfrey), and it became a best seller in 1992, remaining at or close to the top of the list for a year and staying on The New York Times best-seller list for three years. The book and movie made Madison County a tourist destination and the covered bridges a popular wedding venue.

Waller’s second novel, Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend (1993), was also a best seller. His later novels, romances all, included Puerto Vallarta Squeeze: The Run for el Norte (1995) and Border Music (1995). The characters of Waller’s first novel were revisited in A Thousand Country Roads: An Epilogue to The Bridges of Madison County (2002) and High Plains Tango (2005). His final work, The Long Night of Winchell Dear (2006) was a Western thriller.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Read Around the World, A Great Journey

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