Alexander's Bridge was Willa Cather's first novel and one of her best. Bartley Alexander was the world's leading bridge builder, something that was considered an awesome skill in the early 20th century. Alexander has the strength and regret that weave throughout Cather's male characters much as they do through those of her contemporary authors, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Dreiser, Anderson, Lewis, and others. Mrs. Alexander has the strength and forbearance of Cather's female characters, shown off most clearly after the great bridge collapses along with Alexander himself.
The novel bathes its locations in a glow reminiscent of a lovely Impressionist painting, full of light and luminosity. Boston has never appeared more glorious than in her descriptions, as one example.The novel starts with great strength but with a forbidding air. It ends as a great Greek drama with the collapse of the hero and the literal collapse of his great work. This is the Cather novel to start with.