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Robert James Waller, author of The Bridges of Madison County – obituary

Robert James Waller
Robert James Waller Credit: Rex

Robert James Waller, who has died aged 77, fulfilled the dreams of every would-be author in 1992 when his first book, The Bridges of Madison County, became one of the bestselling novels of all time; he had written it in just 11 days.

And it showed, was the response of many critics, who decried it as sentimental, cliché-ridden and trite. For The New Yorker it was “the worst book in living memory”. But millions of ordinary readers responded to the soaring aspirations couched in its folksy prose and its bittersweet tale of middle-aged romance.

A keen photographer, Waller had been taking pictures of the celebrated covered bridges of Madison County in his native Iowa when elements for a story fused in his mind. Inspired partly by a song he had written years earlier, it told of the four-day affair in the 1960s between an Italian-born housewife, Francesca Johnson, and a National Geographic photographer,...

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