String Bridge by Jessica Bell

Cover of String Bridge by Jessica BellHaving read and enjoyed Jessica Bell’s non-fiction, her poetry and her blog, I am keen to work my way through the rest of her books. It made sense to start with String Bridge, her debut novel.

I was also drawn to this book because it focuses on the relationship between a Greek husband and a non-Greek wife. Having been to Greece often, and fallen in love with the country, the one aspect of life there that I find most alien is the old-fashioned, unequal status of men and women in society, so I was keen to see how it worked in this book.

Can Women Have It All?

I won’t go into detail for fear of spoiling the plot, but I discovered it to be an intelligent and believable portrait of the constraints of such a marriage and its impact on other relationships too. I loved the character of the couple’s spirited small daughter, balanced between them in good times and bad.

Essentially the book asks that old chestnut, “can you have it all?” for women who want a great relationship, successful career and a happy family life, and in the heroine’s case her musical life too, with the aded social pressures of modern Greek family mores. I was very aware of the setting all the way through: the city of Athens, which adds further constraints of its own – a bustling, polluted and often frustrating city which also offers an emotional and social anchor and heightens any individual’s sense of mortality.

The detailed handling of bereavement, and of rebuilding of life after loss, was done very well. Bell writes about emotions and inner turmoil with unsparing physical accuracy too, e.g. the details of how the bereaved lose any interest in their own physical well-being and hygiene. I can’t say more than that, for plot-spoiler reasons.

A Book to Especially Delight Musicians

It also addressed the relationship between a musician and his or her music very effectively, as far as I, as a non-musician can tell. I suspect that for those who are musicians, especially guitarists, reading this book will feel like a homecoming. I should also mention that the writing is characterised by the lyrical, imaginative style that I recognised from the author’s poetry, with quirky similes and adjectives often ambushing the reader.

String Bridge is engrossing, the sort of book that you put the rest of your life on hold to read, and I read it very quickly. The ending read a little to swiftly and neatly, out of kilter with the rest of the book, but it was pleasing and logical, so that’s not a major criticism. I’m looking forward to working my way through the rest of her novels.

To find out more about Jessica Bell and her work, visit her website:

Disclosure: I know Jessica Bell personally, and will be working alongside her at her Homeric Writers’ Retreat next month, but I bought this book like any other reader, without telling her, and she didn’t know that I was reading or reviewing it until after the event. 

One thought on “String Bridge by Jessica Bell

  1. Interesting. I ought to read it. My great-grandma (paternal) was from Greece: I suspect (from the evidence) she married in English guy to escape the male domination,then brought up her son to believe firmly that he was in charge in his own marriage … Grandpa used to walk a few paces in front of Grandma and the family and certainly dominated everyone.

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