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The Bridges of Madison County

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The Bridges of Madison County
First edition
AuthorRobert James Waller
PublisherWarner Books, Inc.
Publication date
Publication placeUnited States
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages192 pp
813/.54 20
LC ClassPS3573.A4347 B75 1992
Followed byA Thousand Country Roads 

The Bridges of Madison County (also published as Love in Black and White)[1] is a 1992 best-selling romance novel[2][3] by American writer Robert James Waller that tells the story of an Italian-American World War II war bride living on a farm in 1960s Madison County, Iowa. While her husband and children are away at the State Fair, she engages in an affair with a National Geographic photographer from Bellingham, Washington, who is visiting Madison County to create a photographic essay on the covered bridges in the area. The novel is presented as a novelization of a true story, but it is in fact entirely fictional.

The novel is one of the bestselling books of the 20th century, with 50 million copies sold worldwide.[4] It was adapted into a feature film in 1995 and a musical in 2013.


Without expecting to, Robert James Waller conceived of The Bridges of Madison County in the early 1990s. On leave from his teaching job at the University of Northern Iowa, Waller was photographing the Mississippi River with a friend when he decided to photograph the covered bridges of Madison County, Iowa.[2] This event, alongside a song Waller wrote years earlier about "the dreams of a woman named Francesca", gave him the idea for the novel,[2] which he completed in eleven days.[5] After he had written Bridges, Waller came to believe that he had based the character of Francesca Johnson on his wife, Georgia, whom Francesca physically resembles.


According to Marc Eliot, Waller's novella is a modernization of the Noël Coward play Still Life (1934), which was adapted into David Lean's film Brief Encounter (1945). Still Life is about "the desperation, guilt, and temptations of two married people who meet, fall in love, commit adultery, and then separate forever".[6] In The New York Times, Brigitte Weeks said that Bridges had appealed to "middle-aged, world-weary people" in a manner similar to the writings of James A. Michener, though it features more sexuality than Michener's books.[7] The Bridges of Madison County received multiple comparisons to Erich Segal's Love Story (1970) for its plot and prose.[8] For Rolling Stone, Peter Travers said that Waller's prose was modeled on Walt Whitman's work, but instead resembled a greeting card. Travers also said that Bridges exists within a tradition of "great romantic crocks" like Pat Conroy's The Prince of Tides (1986).[8] The New York Times Magazine found the novella's prose comparable to that of Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970) by Richard Bach. The Independent's Nicolette Jones found the novella reminiscent of the books published by Mills & Boon,[1] while Owen Gleiberman found it more similar to an anecdote than to a regular narrative.[3]


Orlando Sentinel[2] Publishers Weekly found The Bridges of Madison County "Quietly powerful and thoroughly credible".[9] L.S. Klepp of Entertainment Weekly called Bridges "a short, poignant story, moving precisely because it has the ragged edges of reality".[10] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times praised the novella's "compelling" story for "elevating to a spiritual level the common fantasy, in which a virile stranger materializes in the kitchen of a quiet housewife and takes her into his arms."[11] The book debuted on the New York Times bestseller list in August 1992 and slowly climbed to number 1,[7] and remained on the list for over three years (164 consecutive weeks), through October 8, 1995.[12]

Film adaptation[edit]

The Bridges of Madison County was made into a 1995 film of the same name, adapted by Richard LaGravenese and directed by Clint Eastwood. It stars Eastwood and Meryl Streep.

Musical adaptation[edit]

The Bridges of Madison County[13] was adapted into a Tony Award-winning[14][15] musical with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and the book by Marsha Norman, premiering at the 2013 Williamstown Theatre Festival. Directed by Bartlett Sher, the cast featured Elena Shaddow as Francesca and Steven Pasquale.[16] The musical began previews on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on January 17, 2014 and officially opened on February 20, 2014 with Kelli O'Hara as Francesca and Steven Pasquale as Robert Kincaid. Directed by Bartlett Sher, the sets are by Michael Yeargan, costumes by Catherine Zuber, and lighting by Donald Holder.[17][18][19] Hunter Foster played the role of Bud Johnson, the husband of Francesca.[20] It closed in May of the same year after 100 performances.[21]


In 2018, the Argentine theatrical director Luis "Indio" Romero directed the actors Facundo Arana and Araceli González in a Spanish version of the work.[22]


  1. ^ a b Jones, Nicolette (October 10, 1993). "BOOK REVIEW / Cowbore of yesteryear: 'The Bridges of Madison County' - Robert James Waller: Mandarin, 3.99 pounds". The Independent. Retrieved September 9, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Grimes, William (March 10, 2017). "Robert James Waller, Author of 'The Bridges of Madison County,' Dies at 77". The New York Times. Retrieved September 9, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Gleiberman, Owen (June 9, 1995). "The Bridges of Madison County". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 9, 2018.
  4. ^ "'Bridges of Madison County' author Waller dies at age 77". Reuters. 10 March 2017. Retrieved 1 September 2023.
  5. ^ Levine, Daniel S. (March 10, 2017). "Robert James Waller Dead: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy.com. Retrieved September 9, 2018.
  6. ^ Eliot 2009, pp. 291.
  7. ^ a b Lyall, Sarah (28 July 1993). "Book Notes: A Big Year for 'Bridges'", The New York Times
  8. ^ a b Travers, Peter (June 2, 1995). "The Bridges of Madison County". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 9, 2018.
  9. ^ "The Bridges of Madison County". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
  10. ^ Klepp, L.S. "BOOK REVIEW: The Bridges of Madison County" June 12, 1992.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 2, 1995). "The Bridges of Madison County". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
  12. ^ (8 October 1995). "Best Seller List", The New York Times
  13. ^ Official site bridgesofmadisoncountymusical
  14. ^ Staff. "Just the Winners, Please: Who Won the 68th Annual Tony Awards" Archived 2014-06-09 at archive.today playbill.com, June 8, 2014
  15. ^ "The Tony Award Nominees - Shows - TonyAwards.com - The American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards® - Official Website by IBM". TonyAwards.com. 2014-02-18. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  16. ^ Hetrick, Adam. " 'The Bridges of Madison County', Starring Steven Pasquale and Elena Shaddow, Premieres at Williamstown" Archived 2013-08-03 at the Wayback Machine playbill.com, August 1, 2013
  17. ^ Hetrick, Adam. " 'The Bridges of Madison County', Starring Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale, Arrives on Broadway Jan. 17" Archived 2014-02-01 at the Wayback Machine playbill.com, January 17, 2014
  18. ^ Gioia, Michael and Hetrick, Adam. "'The Bridges of Madison County' Will Open on Broadway One Week Earlier Than Expected" Archived 2013-12-02 at the Wayback Machine playbill.com, November 26, 2013
  19. ^ Staff."The Verdict: Critics Review 'The Bridges of Madison County'" Archived 2014-03-21 at the Wayback Machine playbill.com, February 21, 2014
  20. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Hunter Foster Completes Love Triangle of Broadway Musical The Bridges of Madison County'" Archived 2013-12-06 at the Wayback Machine playbill.com, December 3, 2013
  21. ^ "The Bridges of Madison County". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2020-08-30.
  22. ^ "Los puentes de Madison" (in Spanish). Alternativa Teatral. Retrieved 7 September 2018.


External links[edit]