Have you ever wondered why someone chooses to end things?
Mental Health Awareness is something that many people feel they probably understand but I am sure if we were to delve further into the reasoning behind why someone feels so devastatingly low that they are will to do something so finite we would be very limited in our knowledge.
This is the problem faced by Alice Reed in Strangers on a Bridge by Louise Mangos.
She believed that with her education and studies in Psychology that she understood people. Also, she feels like she has walked in their shoes because a very long time ago she also attempted to take her own life, although, in reality, she knows that it was more like a teenager cry for help to deal with all the angst that life throws at us.
One morning whilst out running through the Lorze Gorge, following the river towards Lake Aegeri (Aegerisee) near her adopted home near Zug in Switzerland, Alice stops dead when she notices a man standing high up on top of the Tobel Bridge. Unsure what to do next she sprints up the steep incline to try to stop him from doing anything he couldn’t take back.
Manfred, clearly in a state of despair, believes there is no other way out. He believes that whatever is troubling him can be over in a matter of minutes if he were only to jump. However, with Alice’s calming influence she manages to talk him down and away from the bridge.
The only problem is she came out for a run, has limited money on her, no car keys and really no idea what to do with the gentleman she has just saved. With no other option immediately to hand she takes Manfred by the hand, leads him to the bus stop and jumps on the next bus back to Aegeri and home.
Only later will she realise just how stupid that was.
Manfred’s character quickly changes. He goes from being a man clearly on the brink of life, wanting to end it all regardless of how others he left behind felt, to a man obsessed. He goes from what appears to be quite submissive and lonely to confident and quite menacing.
The innocent action on the bridge firstly turns into a thank you coffee but then progresses into a full-blown nightmare for Alice. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live with someone knowing your every move but Louise does a very good job in describing just how Alice feels and reacts when she finds out her life is suddenly not personal anymore.
It starts with what appears to be simple acts of kindness – wildflowers left in the post box; washing taken from the line during a storm – to more severe acts of intrusion. No-one wants to feel unsafe in their own home but the day that Manfred walks into the locked house while Alice is in the shower is the day that she realises nothing will ever be the same again.
Her husband thinks she is overacting and the police think she is paranoid. Alice, however, knows that this man is slowly turning her insane. She has become overly suspicious of everything, unreasonable in her behaviour and obsessed with Manfred. What starts out as an act of kindness quickly turns into traumatic persecution.
Alice realises she needs to take matters into her own hands but how far she is prepared to go to save her own sanity is further than anyone would have predicted.
Strangers on a Bridge is a thought-provoking story reflecting the very real struggles of two extremely difficult topics – mental illness and stalker obsession. Louise Mangos captures just how devastating life can be for someone that is truly suffering but has nowhere to go and no-one to turn to.
Would I Recommend Strangers on a Bridge by Louise Mangos?
While it is a fictional work there are some very dark, underlying themes being written about which I understand would not be for everyone. If you have been affected by either of these topics it may not be your first choice read on an autumnal evening but underneath the hard-hitting themes, this is a very well written story that also highlights the way of life in a little Swiss village for a non-native struggling with both the language and to fit it. For anyone that has ever lived in a foreign country, it is hard not to relate to some of Alice’s struggles.
Have you read a novel with similar themes? Perhaps you have suggestions for anyone wanting to learn more about mental health awareness, if so please leave your suggestions below.
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I would like to thank Louise Mangos for providing me with a review copy of her novel to review. As with all reviews, all opinions are my own and have not been influenced by the author in any way.