Magazine article The Spectator

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Magazine article The Spectator

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Article excerpt

BRIDGE OF SIGHS bt Richard Russo Bloomsbury, £17.99, pp. 544, ISBN 9780701175979 £14.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

Richard Russo is one of those writers, and they are many -- indeed, they are most -- whose work you may have read and enjoyed and yet whose name you may not instantly recognise. These are the stalwarts, the broad-shouldered, able-bodied men and women of literature, the workers, who for some reason lack that instant brand recognition that means the next time you're in a bookshop or a library you're going to head for their spot on the shelf to see what they've been up to lately.

With his novel Empire Falls (2001) it looked as though Russo was about to emerge from obscurity into the sunny uplands of bookshop 3 for 2dom. His earlier novels, Mohawk (1986), say, and Nobody's Fool (1993), were good books, but Empire Falls, about a New England town down on its luck, and its distinctly down-on-their-luck inhabitants, was a masterpiece: funny, warm, complex, a wonderfully comfy sort of a book, a book which dawdled and made you want to dawdle with it. Crucially, it had a spotlight shone upon it; it won Russo a Pulitzer Prize.

Since Empire Falls Russo has published The Whore's Child (2002), a book of short stories, and now, in Bridge of Sighs, he's written another big, complex, sprawling book. A little less comfy this time, perhaps -- there are certainly fewer jokes -- but just the same amount of heart-softening heartache, and slowly revealed small-town secrets and disappointments. It's basically a long meditation on dwindling friendships, and rivalries, and the quiet agonies of father-son relationships. …

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