Arcs David Morse The Iron Bridge

ISBN 13: 9780151002597

The Iron Bridge

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9780151002597: The Iron Bridge

Maggie Foster takes a trip back through time to England, on the eve of the construction of the world’s first iron bridge. To let the bridge be built and the Industrial Revolution to continue unbridled or to destroy the bridge and alter the course of history are among the dilemmas Maggie faces in this “richly evocative and fascinating piece of historical speculation” (Kirkus Reviews).

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Review:

An exciting debut novel, David Morse's The Iron Bridge bears more than a passing resemblance in premise to Connie Willis's award-winning time-travel tales, Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog. The common idea: a young, slightly confused person tries to get a seemingly simple task accomplished in the distant past, only to find out that life then was easily as chaotic as life now, and that her task won't be so simple. Morse departs from Willis's path in that his heroine, Maggie Foster, is beamed back to 1773 England from a decidedly dystopian future in which rampant industrial growth has resulted in ecological collapse. If Maggie can spoil the success of the world's first iron bridge, then the industrial revolution--and humanity's ecological record of shame--may be prevented. The Iron Bridge is melancholy and thoughtful, focusing on the worries and passions of Maggie and the ironworking Quaker family she becomes attached to. Maggie's dilemma is tough--everyone wants the bridge built well, including the people she comes to care about. If she fails, the course of history will lead to ecological disaster; if she succeeds, her loved ones in the future will cease to have existed, and her adopted family will be ruined. --Therese Littleton

From the Author:

The Iron Bridge grew out of a couple of projects. I had been commissioned to do a piece on the steel industry for Esquire, which the editors paid me for but never published. My interest in steel deepened in the meantime to something mystical. I began to see how much ironmaking technology has shaped the past 300 years of human history, propelling Western culture forcibly into every corner of the globe. And then, oddly, I undertook the restoration of an 18th century tavern in Willimantic, Connecticut. So I would be pointing bricks and refurbishing fireplaces and fantasizing life in the 18th century. The two just came together. Before I knew it I was writing a novel about the building of the first iron bridge in the 1770s, an event that changed the world.

My favorite character in the book is Maggie Foster, because she's up against the impossible: trying to prevent that shift to heavy industry. I like that she is baffled and resourceful and must come to terms with her own loneliness and need for love.

But at various times in the writing of the book, I found myself resonating with John Wilkinson, an irascible and licentious armsmaker who is capable of almost anything, and who is based quite closely on historical fact. At other times, I identified with Abraham Darby III, a young Quaker ironmaster, who is painfully ambivalent about his own destiny.

I found myself moving in and out of sympathy with the different characters. I suppose that is part of writing, as much as it is part of life. This is my first novel. I hope it conveys in a fresh way the vitality and brashness of a past that has largely doomed our future.

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