A non-fiction novel is the presentation, structured as a novel, of the facts about an actual event or person. The most widely known example is Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. John Hersey’s Hiroshima, Norman Mailer’s Executioner’s Song, and Alex Haley’s Roots are also members of the genre. Non-fiction novels are essentially the opposite of historical fiction, which focuses on fictional characters in historical settings. The best of both genres are the result of extensive research into the actual events and people that form the basis or background of the story. While The Bridge of Deaths clearly demonstrates that years of in-depth research accompanied its writing, it doesn’t fit either genre because it’s about the research rather than the event. I've classified it as a non-fiction novel because its fictional characters are merely a device by which to include things that don’t strictly fit the definition of research.
On August 15, 1939, shortly before Hitler’s invasion of Poland and the commencement of World War II, a British Airways Ltd. airliner crashed into the water near Storstromsbroen, a bridge in Denmark. All four passengers and one crew member died in the crash. The pilot was the lone survivor. One of the passengers, Cesar Agustin Castillo, was an employee of Standard Oil of New Jersey and the author’s grandfather. In 1993, curious about the circumstances surrounding her grandfather’s death, Egan began her research with a visit to the British Airways archives near London Heathrow Airport. The Bridge of Deaths is the culmination of her years of research.
The story revolves around Bill and Maggie, a fictional couple in London, and Catalina, Egan’s alter-ego in Florida. It’s well written and flows well when the focus is on Bill and Maggie’s burgeoning romance. When it shifts to conversations between Maggie and Catalina or to Catalina reorganizing her books and files – devices used for the presentation of Egan’s research and anti-war stance – it tends to bog down. Bill and Maggie are used as a means of presenting the findings Egan gleaned from psychics and an anonymous individual who experienced a past life regression as the surviving pilot while under hypnosis.
As with the story, the characters and dialogue are well done and realistic when relating Bill and Maggie’s romance. When the story shifts to the research presentation, they become very stiff and artificial.
The manuscript would have benefitted from a final proofreading before going to print.
2.5 of 5 Stars
Published June 2011 by Authorhouse