Charlotte Hutchison is born into utter poverty on "the wrong side of the river" back at the turn of the last century. Her mother died while giving birth to her,
leaving her to be brought up by a horde of rough alcoholic brothers and an equally rough and alcoholic father.
The only way of getting to school
is by using the boat her father and brothers hire out to take townsfolk across the river and into Town, though they hold Charlotte in so much scorn that they often don’t bother to pick her up in the evening;
she has to bed down at a kind Samaritan's house, ready to go back to school tomorrow. Of course, when the river freezes over, there
isn’t a problem - Charlotte simply walks across the thick ice and takes herself into Town.
What follows is Charlotte’s story, from schoolgirl to seamstress and, eventually, to wife and mother. Her life isn’t easy; even when she leaves behind her awful family and permanently moves into Town she always has the
"Hutchison girl" label. A particular part of the story that sums up Charlotte’s luck perfectly
occurs during her first pregnancy. After the initial shock of finding herself expecting a baby, she throws herself into the thought of impending motherhood, only to give birth to a holy terror of a daughter whom she cannot bring herself to either bond with or love to any great extent.
Nothing goes right for Charlotte. At certain points, it starts to look like things are on the up for her, but she
is soon slapped down to reality. Charlotte is a bright, willful girl who really tries to alter her own path through life, but she
is knocked back at each point in her journey. At certain points in the novel, I had tears in my eyes; at other times, I actually laughed out loud at the scrapes she got herself into.
The title of the book, Charlotte’s Bridge, has a double meaning. There is
an actual bridge being built across the river to make access possible for people to cross from one side to the other. But reading the novel from cover to cover
makes apparent that Charlotte is building a bridge through her difficult life, starting with her unhappy childhood and ending with her marriage to one of the richest men in Town.
This is a fantastic novel, very different to the detective and horror genres I usually read, but I thoroughly enjoyed every single page of this book. It’s a calming read; being set such a long time ago, there
is no talk of iPods or DVD players, leaving the reader completely immersed in the gentleness and beauty of life before electricity. The author’s use of description is fantastic; within the first ten pages,
the reader really gets a feel and picture Charlotte’s surroundings. Author
David L. Spruance vividly conveys the desperation Charlotte s as she tries to come to terms with both her faith and the fact that life doesn’t always turn out how you want it to.
With some clever use of description and emotion, Spruance shakes up his
characters, defining them in multiple dimensions so the reader will be able to identify with and feel some degree of sympathy for
them. Fans of Catherine Cookson’s work will love this book; it has the same "olde worlde" charm, coupled with the beauty of reading about life one hundred years ago. Spruance,
like Cookson, concentrates on a select few characters around whom he builds his beautiful and tragic story; lesser characters add substance to his descriptions of life in a growing early twentieth-century
I recommend this book wholeheartedly. I’m going to track down a copy of this author's previous novel, Voices In The Blood, and hope that he will write many more books in this vein.