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Charlotte Hutchison was born into utter poverty on the wrong side of the river back at the turn of the last century. Her mother had died while giving birth to her and left 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 was by using the boat her father and brothers hired out to take townsfolk across the river and into Town, although they held Charlotte in so much scorn that they often didnt bother to pick her up in the evening and shed have to bed down at a kind Samaritans house ready to go back to school tomorrow. Of course, when the river froze over there wasnt this problem as Charlotte would simply walk across the thick ice and take herself into Town. What follows is Charlottes story; from schoolgirl to seamstress and eventually to wife and mother. Her life isnt 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, which I think sums up Charlottes luck perfectly, is 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 who she cannot bring herself to either bond with or love to any great extent. Nothing goes right for Charlotte. At certain points in the book it starts to look like things are on the up for her, but shes soon slapped down to reality at each upward turn of her fate. I felt great empathy for Charlotte as I was reading; shes a bright and wilful girl who really tries to alter her own path through life, but shes knocked back at each point in her journey. At certain points through the novel I had tears in my eyes, while at other times Id actually laugh out loud at the scrapes she got herself into. The title of the book, Charlottes Bridge, has a double meaning. There is, actually, a bridge being built across the river to make access possible for people to cross from one side to the other. But after reading the novel from cover to cover I can see that Charlotte was 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. Its very different to the detective and horror genres which I usually read, but I thoroughly enjoyed every single page of this book. Its a calming read; being set such a long time ago theres no talk of iPods or DVD players, meaning I could completely immerse myself in the gentleness and beauty of life before electricity. The authors use of description is fantastic, within the first ten pages is enough description that I could really get a feel and picture Charlottes surroundings as I read. He also manages to convey the desperation Charlotte is feeling as she tries to come to terms with both her faith and the fact that life doesnt always turn out how you want it to. With some clever use of description and emotion the author, David L. Spruance, has taken some very one dimensional people and shaken them up to create characters who the reader will be able to identify with and feel some degree of sympathy for. To liken this novel to a better known author, Id have to say that if you enjoy Catherine Cooksons work then youll love this book. It has the same olde worlde charm, coupled with the beauty of reading about life one hundred years ago. David L. Spruance has also used Catherine Cooksons way of concentrating on a select few characters which he builds his beautiful and tragic story around, lesser characters being used only to add some substance to his descriptions of life in a growing early twentieth century Town. I recommend this book wholeheartedly. Im going to track down a copy of this authors previous novel, Voices In The Blood, and hopefully hell write many more books in this vein. You can buy a copy on amazon.co.uk for £10.30 for the paperback version, or check out your local library if it doesn't sound your cup of tea - but do read it, betcha you love it. Paperback: 328 pages Publisher: iUniverse ISBN: 0595336868 Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com
Charlotte's Bridge tells the story of a girl's coming of age at the turn of the last century whose life is haunted by two images: One, the conjured, idyllic face of her mother who died giving birth to Charlotte; the other, the body, encased in a block of ice, of a man murdered by her father and half brothers. Against a backdrop in which constant changes produce coincidentally marvelous and frightening experiences, Charlotte Hutchison escapes the sordid, hostile, and criminal world of her childhood to create a life among the civilized people of the town acros is the river from her natal home. Pursuing what she believes is the purity of her mother's legacy and desperately seeking to sever the present from her past through acceptance and love, Charlotte clutches at stability, security, and respectability. Yet a dark secret plagues her, compromising her ideals and engendering ambivalence towards her friends, her marriage, motherhood, and ultimately her religion. Each reaction, each choice, each step she takes towards the fulfillment of her dreams ironically generates doubts and trials challenging her faith in her worthiness and leaving her with a tenuous and precarious grasp on reality.