Monday, January 23, 2017

Classic Review: The Bridge of San Luis Rey

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, April 15, 2003 (originally published 1923). 128 pages. Published by Harper Perennial Modern Classics. Source: Own.
Thornton Wilder This beautiful new edition features unpublished notes for the novel and other illuminating documentary material, all of which is included in a new Afterword by Tappan Wilder. "On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipi-tated five travelers into the gulf below." With this celebrated sentence Thornton Wilder begins "The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of the towering achievements in American fiction and a novel read throughout the world. By chance, a monk witnesses the tragedy. Brother Juniper then embarks on a quest to prove that it was divine intervention rather than chance that led to the deaths of those who perished in the tragedy. His search leads to his own death -- and to the author's timeless investigation into the nature of love and the meaning of the human condition.  
First Sentence:
On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all of Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.

Every now and again, okay more every few books, I like to read a classic. It does not matter if I have read it before, I just get in the mood to read something that was so good that it has survived the highs and lows of bookish fads. There is something thrilling, at least to me, about reading a book that is not "burning up the 'best sellers'" list.

  • The first time I read The Bridge of San Luis Rey for some reason, unbeknownst to me, my first thought was that it was going to be about a historical battle...not about the collapse of a bridge and the sudden death of five people. Truthfully, that first time, I was disappointed that it was not about a battle; yet, as the author explored the relationships that were woven between the five people, I could not help but find myself enjoying it.
  • I will tell you this now, it starts off rather slow and laborious. Yet, even though the story took some time to actually get going, I really enjoyed the build up around it and how the layers of the story started to come together in a slow yet precise way. 
  • One of the most remarkable things about this book was that each of the five who passed away when the bridge collapsed were, to be blunt, riddled with dark histories that they strove to overcome just before they met there untimely end. As it has taken me all month to find the words for this review, I'll spare y'all and won't discuss their respective stories too deeply. What really made their stories interesting was how there was both light and dark, well balanced, when he wrote about them. Like how the Marquesa was overly attached to her daughter, even though the daughter treated her poorly, and yet she wrote magnificently.  
  • Given how disappointed I was to learn that it was, in fact, not about a battle, I can honestly say that I enjoyed this one very much. The writing and storytelling were both well done and managed to capture my attention. It was a great way to kick off my reading for 2017. Should you be curious as to the themes and sources that inspired The Bridge of San Luis Rey, as well as a study guide that discusses it really well, too!

Final Verdict:  The Bridge of San Luis Rey- Imperfect characters, including the narrator, makes this a fascinating look into human person and how we each influence those around us.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey earns

I own a copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

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