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“"On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below." The bridge was San Luis Rey. The ensuing story was an investigation into the five victims by Father Juniper, who hoped to bridge the "discrepancy between faith...”see full review » see other reviews »
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“I had great expectations going into this novel, partly because it won the Pulitzer in 1928, but I just did not care for it. True, the monk's attempt to decipher God's purpose--why those who fell with the collapse of the bridge were chosen for death (or was it random?)--is an interesting idea for...”see full review » see other reviews »
“This short novel explores the question of whether our lives are governed by providence or by chance.
On Friday, July 20, 1714, a bridge collapses in Lima, Peru, killing five people. Sometime after the event, Brother Juniper, a Franciscan monk, attempts to prove empirically that the hand of God was at work in this accident. But his knowledge of the victims is limited, and his efforts result in a silly quantitative formula made to calculate such things as an individual’s goodness and usefulness to others - a formula which doesn’t work anyway. Brother Juniper ends up being charged with heresy, and he is burned along with his book.
Then the book’s unidentified, omniscient narrator steps in, with the actual details about the lives of the victims, so that we can see for ourselves whether they died by design or by chance.
So here is the real story operating here, as I see it: The book (like the world) is populated by fallen, wretched people (that would be ourselves), whose hearts none know but God. But if we look carefully enough and deeply enough, and if we possess enough knowledge of what we are looking at, we just might be able to discern the salvific movements of grace, offered at key moments. And we might realize that we sometimes act as instruments of this grace to others, even unknowingly.
Anyway, this is what I see in the victims’ stories, and in fact I think the book makes this pretty clear.”
“Achingly sad.”Tricia wrote this review Sunday, September 1, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“One of the main bridges in all of Peru collapses in 1714 and carries five travelers to their deaths. The bridge connected Lima to Cuzco.
A Franciscan who was also traveling, witnessed the collapse and then did a study of the lives of the five people who perished, examining if there was something in their lives that caused God to permit the bridge to collapse and fall just when they were on it.
Well written, Pulitzer Prize winner with excellent dialogue and characterization.”
“Screaming the realities of life. ”Unfabulous wrote this review Tuesday, January 29, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“An interesting early work from an author I really knew only as a playwright. Inspired to read by AS Byatt's review of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, which references this work and which I had recently read.”emaki wrote this review Tuesday, January 22, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“The October 2012 selection for my book club.
p. xiii. One merely has to consider the central question raised by the novel, which, according to Wilder himself, was simply: "Is there a direction and meaning to our lives beyond the individual's own will?"
p. xvi. And it was not merely appropriate, it was a necessary admonition, that, at the memorial service in New York for British victims of the attack on the World Trade Center, British Prime Minister Tony Blair chose to read the closing sentences of "The Bridge of San Luis Rey": "But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.
Part 1. Perhaps an Accident
p. 7. Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan.
Part 2. The Marquesa de Montemayor (Dona Maria)
p. 26. for the incident was but a recurring dream.
p. 27. one of the richest women in Peru, and the blindest.
She was one of those persons who have allowed their lives to be gnawed away because they have fallen in love with an idea several centuries before its appointed appearance in the history of civilization. She hurled herself against the obstinacy of her time in her desire to attach a little dignity to women.
p. 28. . . . not sufficiently attractive . . . worth his caress.
p. 32. Nature is deaf. God is indifferent. Nothing in man's power can alter the course of law.
p. 37. She had never brought courage to either life or love.
Part 3. Esteban
p. 45. Now he discovered that secret from which one never quite recovers, that even in the most perfect love one person loves less profoundly than the other.
Part 4. Uncle Pio.
p. 76. Only perfection would do, only perfection. And that would never come.
p. 81. The Archbishop knew that most of the priests in Peru were scoundrels. . . . Like all the rich he could not bring himself to believe that the poor (look at their houses, look at their cloths) could really suffer.
p. 83. . . . those who had loved and those who had not. . . . He regarded love as a sort of cruel malady through which eh elect are required to pass in their late youth and from which they emerge, plae and wrung, but ready for the business of living.
p. 89. There is no such thing as that kind of love and that kind of island. It is in the theater you find such things.
p. 90. . . . she had never realized any love save love as passion. Such love, though it expends itself i generosity and thoughtfulness, thought it give birth to visions and to great poetry, remains among the sharpest expressions of self-interest.
Part 5. Perhaps an intention
p. 99. The discrepancy between faith and the facts is greater than is generally assumed.
p. 101. He thought he saw in the same accident the wicked visited by destruction and the good called early to Heaven.”
“This classic is worth a re-read. It's perceptive character descriptions are engaging and heartwarming.”Rosamar wrote this review Sunday, February 3, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Is there a plan? Is it all just chance? Wilder never answers these questions, but he delivers a poerful story that can't help but make you ponder them. Some of the saddest and most tragic figures I have ever had the pleasure to read about, and one of the best intertwined storylines I have ever seen.”Chris M wrote this review Saturday, July 14, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
The novel begins at noon on July 20, 1714, when the “finest bridge in all Peru” suddenly collapses, sending five people plummeting to their deaths. A Franciscan missionary, Brother Juniper, witnesses the calamity and asks, “Why those five?” He feels this Act of God must have specifically targeted those people, and none of the other thousands of citizens who might have been on the bridge instead. So he investigates the lives of the five victims in an attempt to understand what happened.
This is a moral fable in which Wilder tries to answer the question, “Is there a direction and meaning in lives beyond the individual’s own will?” He explores the characters’ motivations in life, their triumphs and disappointments. Its universal appeal is that Wilder is writing about human nature – conflicted, noble, contradictory, loving, and exasperating. He holds a mirror up to the reader’s own soul, asking the reader to examine his or her own actions and reactions.
Then Prime Minister Tony Blair read the closing sentences of this work at the memorial service for British victims of the Sept 11 attack on the World Trade Center: “Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”