Thursday, March 10, 2016

Alexander's Bridge by Willa Cather

At first glance, Bartley Alexander appears to live a charmed life in Alexander's Bridge by Willa Cather (1912). How could anyone not envy his life in Boston or in his travels that take him to New York City, London and Canada? He's married to the beautiful, wealthy and accomplished Winifred and the picture of a wealthy and powerful man of industry, renowned as the builder of bridges. 

Underneath all this, Bartley lives a double life. He's wracked by a powerful midlife crisis that has led him into an affair with a woman from his past. She's the actress, Hilda Burgoyne, who lives in London. As Bartley divides his time between Boston and London, he becomes more guilt ridden for his weaknesses and his inability to summon the strength to break off his romance with Hilda.

Meanwhile, there are undercurrents of trouble with his latest bridge being built in Canada, mainly the news of cutting corners on the quality of the building materials. In normal circumstances, Bartley would be attuned to what is going with his latest project, but his inner turmoil makes him lose his concentration.

In my reading about Alexander's Bridge, I've seen Willa Cather's comments that this novel is not one of her favorites, but readers shouldn't discount the novel. Cather's observations on human nature and love are astute, and she does an excellent job of showing Bartley's inner turmoil and how it has a lasting effect on his life and the lives of others. 

Alexander's Bridge is different from other novels that I've read of Willa Cather's. In fact, the writing and the plot make me think of Edith Wharton. I recommend Alexander's Bridge as a great first effort by Cather that makes me look forward to reading more of her work.

Have you read Alexander's Bridge? What is your favorite novel by Willa Cather?


  1. I like My Antonia and O Pioneers by Cather. But then I haven't read any books by her that I disliked. Sad to say, I was unaware of Alexander's Bridge. Obviously my library doesn't have it. :) But it sounds like one I might want to read.

  2. I loved My Antonia, O Pioneers, Death Comes for the Archbishop, and Shadows on the Rock. Sapphira and the Slave Girl and A Lost Lady were also good but not my favorites. I found One of Ours more problematic, but it has its fans as well. I know I want to read all of Cather eventually so I hope I'll get to this one soon!

  3. I've read My Antonia and O Pioneers, but this one sounds very different and intriguing. I may put it on my list.