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The Bridge of San Luis Rey

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  16,438 ratings  ·  1,046 reviews
This beautiful new edition features unpublished notes for the novel and other illuminating documentary material, all of which is included in a new Afterword by Tappan Wilder.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 precipitated five travelers into the gulf below." With this celebrated sentence Thornton Wilder begins The Bridge of S
Paperback, 138 pages
Published April 15th 2003 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1927)
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee1984 by George OrwellThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Best Books of the 20th Century
461st out of 6,016 books — 40,193 voters
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Best Books of the Decade: 1920's
22nd out of 304 books — 540 voters

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Community Reviews

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In Webbers Falls, Oklahoma, at 7:45 a.m. on May 26, 2002, a towboat collided with a bridge pier, and 14 travelers along Interstate 40 plunged to their deaths in the Arkansas River below. Two of the victims, a police officer and his wife, lived in my old neighborhood. When I heard about the collapse, my thoughts returned to Wilder’s “The Bridge of San Luis Rey,” written in 1927.

In Lima, Peru, at noon on Friday, June 12, 1714, an ancient Inca bridge collapsed as five people crossed the mountain pa
My ex fiance recently contacted me, interrupting my yearlong effort to convince myself I'd never hear from her again, to tell me her dad had died. It was solemn news, for I adored the man and had, once upon a time, been within a hairbreadth of being a part of his family. I searched for the proper way to respond. I went to Hyvee and looked at the sympathy cards but, seriously, they have 2 types of sympathy cards - both lame - and 4,567,987 types of cards making fun of people turning 40 (and 3% of ...more
Emily May

"Some say that we shall never know, and that to the gods we are like the flies that the boys kill on a summer day, and some say, on the contrary, that the very sparrows do not lose a feather that has not been brushed away by the finger of God."

You might think a book so focused on God and faith would fail to have the desired effect on an atheist like me. But, actually, I think the religious factor of this novel is just a small part of something which affects all of us: our need to question why t
Jan 07, 2014 Dolors rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Believers and non believers
Recommended to Dolors by: sckenda
Shelves: read-in-2013
“Some say that we shall never know, and that to the gods we are like the flies that the boys kill on a summer day, and some say, on the contrary, that the very sparrows do not lose a feather that has not been brushed away by the finger of God.” (p.12)

Without the batting of an eye, Thorntorn Wilder’s presents his short story with the dilemma of the nature of the divine will and the resultant conflict between fate and randomness, faith and reason, meaning and absurdity.
Set in the eighteenth centu
Henry Avila
On the 20th of July, 1714,in Peru,five people descended to eternity,when they fell into an abyss. Ironically,while the birds sung sweetly, in a beautiful scene of snowy mountains, far away,with green vegetation and pretty trees below. The noon collapse of the bridge of San Luis Rey, not only killed the poor unfortunates. But maybe more important, showed us the world, how precious life is. An uncommon novel because it tells the reader at the very beginning, the ending. Brother Juniper,a Francisca ...more
4.5 stars
This is a brief novella which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928 and is often mentioned in lists of the greatest novels. It is set in Peru and is centred on the collapse of a rope bridge which killed five people. A Franciscan witnesses the collapse and sets out to find out why those five people died and not others. Brother Juniper feels that the mind of God must be logical and knowable and there must be a scientific method of working out why those particular people die. He therefore sets ou
"Some say that we shall never know and that to the gods we are like flies that boys kill on a summer day, and some say, on the contrary, that the very sparrows do not lose a feather that has not been brushed away by the finger of God."

And some of us say that we shall never know, full stop. Neither are we the playthings of fickle deities, nor are we held tenderly in the hand of some giant all-seeing ineffable being in the sky.
I thought this had all been thrashed out in the 18th century - the old
Stephen M
Jul 27, 2012 Stephen M rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Riku!!!
Recommended to Stephen M by: David Mitchell
Perhaps a Review

A book about the connections that we forge between us, Thorton Wilder’s 1928, Pulitzer winning novel is a Great Gatsby-Heart of Darkness scale of a book, with the same type of compact brevity that the other two are famous for. The book also represents some of the ideas that were swirling around at the time in the modernist canon, all those ideas that were the precursor of the meta-fictive pomo literature that was to come some 40-50 years later. It’s often nice to explore this ter
Jan 08, 2014 Tej rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Kindered Spirits
Recommended to Tej by: Dolors
“The most valuable thing I inherited,” he once said in an interview, “was a temperament that does not revolt against Necessity and that is constantly renewed in Hope.”

Aforesaid are Thornton Wilder’s words about his own self and this short work, does reflect a bit of him, perhaps. The premise behind his conjuring up this tale is Brother Juniper’s whimsical yet putatively scientific predilection towards finding answer in the voice of God or faith for the death of five people in the destruction of
K.D. Absolutely
Nov 27, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Judith
Shelves: pulitzer, time-100
Christmastime 2010. You just got home from attending a Christmas party. Your bedroom clock says that it is 12:01. You change your clothes and about to sleep so you turn off the light. Then your cellphone rings. It is one of your friends who just came from the same party. There is a terrible news. Five of your friends, the ones that you saw in the same party who boarded together in the same car had a fatal road accident. They are now all dead.

You put down the phone. You cannot sleep anymore. So
I have to admit this book perplexed me a little bit. I found a good deal of it haunting. It is also somewhat aloof and detached. Much is made of the fact that Brother Juniper is trying to discover God's Plan in his misapplied scientific investigation of the sudden deaths of the handful of Peruvians plunged to their death by a collapsing bridge in the 1700s, but Juniper's story just kind of peters out at the end. The story of the Esteban brothers is the most interesting one, a great short story i ...more
I had high hopes for this and it started with an incredible opening sentence. But the whole thing remained curiously flat to me despite some detailed sympathetic characters and an interesting premise. I think my reaction may have more to do with my state of mind than the book itself. It’s the middle of a long hot summer, and my literary cravings are running to crime thrillers and sci-fi that I can easily absorb as I cower from the sun in the house with the central AC on so high that the senses b ...more

Pulitzer prize novels have been a mixed bag for me, so I approached this 1927 winner without high expectations, especially as the movie version I have seen a few years back, has been OK, but not all that memorable.

Well, I changed my opinion in only a couple of pages, as I kept picking post-it notes to put down ideas and quotes. First, I was attracted by the sparse elegance of the text and the quotable sparkling of the author's wit, but these estethical delights were soon overshadowed by the pain
A perfect tale read at the perfect time.

But her biographers have erred in one direction as greatly as the Franciscan did in another; they have tried to invest her with a host of graces, to read back into her life and person some of the beauties that abound in her letters, whereas all real knowledge of this wonderful woman must proceed from the act of humiliating her and of divesting her of all beauties save one.

The Conde delighted in her letters, but he thought that when he had enjoyed the style
Mar 12, 2008 Angela rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Angela by: Marcie
Shelves: fiction
I had to pull out my Post-It flags for this one -- I kept finding beautiful, thought-provoking passages to bookmark. I especially enjoyed Wilder's thoughtful observations on human nature & his interesting perspective on love. Here are a few of my favorite passages:

"[Dona Maria] saw that the people of this world moved about in an armor of egotism, drunk with self-gazing, athirst for compliments, hearing little of what was said to them, unmoved by the accidents that befell their closest frien
BREATHTAKING. Beautiful prose, fascinating tale about the collapse of a bridge and the lives of the people who died there. The premise of the story is that there was a monk who was convinced that each of these people had died for a reason, and who wrote a book trying to prove the existence of God based on the life stories of the five people who died - but the narrator of the story goes on to fill in all the things the monk didn't know or misunderstood, giving this short novel layers upon layers ...more
I’m really not sure what all the fuss is with this book. Granted, there’s no modern fuss lately, but I mean the Pulitzer, the recent acclaim for Wilder’s novels more so than his plays. I bought this because I loved “Our Town” so much; this did not speak to me at all. Perhaps I would get more out of it if I read it again – now knowing the characters, their roles, how they overlap (because there is a lot of Spanish and church terminology: the Perichole, the Viceroy, the Archbishop, the Marquesa de ...more
Great art -- whether written, performed, painted, etc – stirs your soul and makes you reflect on your life and on the world around you. This book is great art. In just 108 pages, Wilder creates a beautiful story, complete with interesting, complex characters, and a premise that is as timeless and relevant now as when it was written (and when it takes place). On an ordinary day in Peru in the 1700s, a legendary bridge collapses, and five people fall to their death. A Catholic priest decides to lo ...more
Les Aucoin
How did I manage for all these years to ignore this Pulitzer winning classic? Thornton Wilder's story is a deeply moving exploration of the nature of love and mortality (and of free will and chance versus the concept of a world of guided purpose). The author's last sentence is one of the most exquisite in American literature. Prime Minister Tony Blair quoted it at the memorial service for British victims of 9/11:

"But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we
Viji Sarath (Bookish endeavors)
Five people die as a bridge fall. A witness to their death,Brother Juniper,wants to know if it happened by chance or by divine intervention. He interviews the relatives and acquaintances of the dead and writes a book stating his findings. This book is about the stories of those five and those acquainted with them and the plight of Brother Juniper and his book.

Did they deserve to die.?

It is the reaction of Brother Juniper,who said 'why those five' instead of 'it could've been me',which paves way
Scott Axsom
I should probably admit upfront, if sheepishly, that I only recently discovered the work of Thornton Wilder. It was in viewing Our Town (the Paul Newman version) that I was introduced to Wilder’s genius and learned that he was also a novelist and, as such, I sought out his Pulitzer-winning piece, The Bridge of San Luis Rey. It’s unquestionably the most economical novel I’ve ever read (I dare say that’s ever been written) and I say that with unsparing newfound devotion. I loved Tinkers, as well, ...more
Wilder, Thornton. THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY. (1927). ****. It’s been fifty years since I last read this novel, Wilder’s second and his first Pulitzer Prize winner. Set in 18th century Peru, the book is a recounting of the researches of Father Juniper who had tried to find some divine reason for the loss of five lives as a bridge collapsed over a gulch in Lima. Juniper’s writings were ultimately burned by the Inquisition – as was the dear Father – but one copy of his treatise remained. He resear ...more
Beka Sukhitashvili
"ახლა მინდა სიცოცხლე, ახლა მინდა ახალი ცხოვრების დაწყება", ჩაილაპარაკებს მოხუცი მარკიზა და მძინარე პეპიტას ჩამოშლილ გაოფლილ თმას, უკან გადაუწევს. "ცხოვრებაში დგება წუთები, როდესაც უნდა მოიკრიბო სიმამაცე და ბანალობები ილაპარაკო", ამავეს შეეცდება კაპიტანი თვითმკვლელი ესტებანისთვის. "ცხოვრება ძალიან საშინელი ასატანია. როდის მოვკვდები?", გაიფიქრებს ბიძია პაიოს წინ მდგომი კამილა. მეორე დღეს კი, მისი შვილი, ჯეიმი, სირცხვილს იგრძნობს იმ წამის წინაშე, როდესაც მიხვდება, რომ საბოლოოდ უნდა დაშორდეს სხვა ად ...more
Kristine Pratt
Is God concerned with man? Is there purpose in the things that happen? These questions have been around since time began. Thornton Wilder takes on the challenge, not to share whatever his personal opinion of the matter might be, but to better frame the question. Don't expect answers, but do expect a different way of looking at the world. Maybe there are no answers, just stories that need to be told. And the universality there is in trying to understand the world around us.
Five people die tragically in the collapse of a footbridge. Was it an accident or part of God's greater plan? A monk who witnesses the fall is determined to examine the lives of these people to see if the lives they lived led them to their deaths.

I thought the story was eloquently articulated. The short vignettes into the lives of the travelers who lost their lives reveals some intimacies about the characters, but still leaves room for conjecture. We are given the most information about Dona Ma
The tragic loss of five lives with the collapse of the San Luis Rey bridge, held precariously and obstinately by rope for the longest time, sets Brother Juniper on a theological quest to explicate the meaning or randomness of death. Sudden, or preordained by some logical, moral sequence of lives unravelled in their inevitable end? Some divine appointment or divine indifference to the natural law, or lawlessness, of creation loosed in capricious decay?

Brother Juniper had nursed his hypotheses of
John and Kris
I have complex and competing thoughts about the merit of Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey. This is my second experience with Wilder, the first being a disastrous and hostile, bordering on mutinous, class reading of Our Town in high school. I was in the “regular” English class.

First off, I wholly disagree with Russell Banks when he says in the Foreword that “Wilder’s sentences are elegant, but never self admiring, exquisitely balanced, yet not informal, and complex without being elab
Melissa (ladybug)
The Bridge of San Luis Rey was such a touching book. The book starts out with this "rope" bridge breaking and 5 people dropping to their deaths. This was witnessed by a priest named Br. Juniper.

Br. Juniper wanted to scientifically prove that nothing just happens. That it is all G-d's will. I do believe this, but I don't believe that Wilder's Juniper really proved it in the book. I loved the stories though. All the characters stories, though never interacting, had a theme running and bringing the
Thoroughly enjoyed this. What a terribly beautiful, terribly well-written book. I'm already sure this is going to be one of the best books I'll have read this year.
I wonder why I never heard about this until recently. From its inclusion of numerous "best novels of the century" lists I gather this was a classic, but somehow it slipped under my radar all through my study and afterwards. Probably because Wilder made a reputation predominantly as a stage writer. But this is something else. Such ele
Aug 19, 2014 Monique rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Monique by: Angus Miranda

Originally posted here.

It is so easy to fall in love with The Bridge of San Luis Rey . In fact, there is practically nothing about it that's not to love.

First, the prose. "Beautiful" would not even begin to describe it. If I were asked to quote a particular passage to exemplify the brilliance of the writing, I would be hard put to choose anything specific.

There are the characters - people so real and warm and full of human frailties, I wish I could have known them all so I could give each of t
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Tackling the Puli...: The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Thornton Wilder, 1928) 21 26 Jul 14, 2013 03:05AM  
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Thornton Niven Wilder was an American playwright and novelist. He received three Pulitzer Prizes, one for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey and two for his plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth, and a National Book Award for his novel The Eighth Day.
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Our Town The Skin of Our Teeth Three Plays: Our Town/The Skin of Our Teeth/The Matchmaker The Eighth Day The Ides of March

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