Toria's Reviews > The Bridge of San Luis Rey

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
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Sep 03, 12

Read in August, 2012

I did not expect to like this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. The story begins with the collapse of the [fictional] bridge of San Luis Rey and the decision of a missionary friar to investigate the lives of the people killed in the collapse in order to discover why God willed their deaths. It goes on to tell the individual stories of the victims, always culminating in a life-changing experience or decision and how it led to the person's being on the bridge at the time of its collapse. It was an interesting format. I was a bit annoyed that the reader always knows how it will end, since the beginning makes it obvious that they all die, but the deaths occur in surprising places, so it wasn't spoiled too much. As a Catholic, I appreciated the motif of God's will and perfect wisdom, but I never quite discovered if the author was arguing for or against it. That's the thing about this novel; it asks the question, gives the facts, and then doesn't give a final answer. It makes you look for your own conclusions.

Objections: I don't remember any bad language. As for inappropriateness, some of the characters are immoral - one is the Viceroy's mistress and conducts many affairs on the side, and mention is made of another character's casual affairs. There is nothing explicit, though.
One thing that really rubs me the wrong way is the never-ending misrepresentation of the Inquisition. A character is publicly burned for writing a book deemed heretical, and there are other mentions of how horrible the Inquisition was. From what I've researched, nobody would have been burned to death for writing a book deemed heretical. The book would have been banned, yes, but its author would not have received the death penalty. The novel never tells you *why* the book was deemed heretical, either. I consider that bit historically inaccurate.

So, to sum up, not the best novel ever, but worth reading.
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