Mrs Bridge is written in the form of short vignettes. These are funny, poignant and intriguing - like dozens of short stories. The book is set in the 1930s and 1940s in Kansas City and reflects on Mrs Bridge's rather empty life as she moves from household tasks to charity work to entertaining and party-going. She has a very comfortable life with a successful husband and three thriving children but everything seems to be a disappointment to her. Her husband is distant and none of her children turn out quite how she would have wished. (If only she could have had complete power over them!) Even her maid treats her with a sort of benign contempt. Many readers may find themselves envying her advantages. Harriet the maid does the cooking and cleaning and Ingrid does all the laundry. But Mrs Bridge does not know what to do with all the time available to her. She resolves to learn a foreign language or to read something serious but never really gets started on anything.
What this book describes beautifully is the way in which women like her found themselves hamstrung by social conventions of the time. Her daughter befriends Alice a "coloured girl". Alice is bright and inventive and an ideal friend for Carolyn but Mrs Bridge makes sure the friendship is only fleeting. She would not be able to verbalise the problem - she just knew it was not right. Later she is unable to inform any of her friends that her daughter is engaged because her fiancé is the son of a plumber.
Much of the book is a reflection of the mores of the time. When her daughter tells her that her husband had hit her Mrs Bridge replies: "You must have done something to provoke. Didn't you?"
This is a fascinating book of quiet desperation as a woman's world spins out of control.