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The Bridge Over the River Kwai

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  7,496 ratings  ·  328 reviews
1942: Boldly advancing through Asia, the Japanese need a train route from Burma going north. In a prison camp, British POWs are forced into labor. The bridge they build will become a symbol of service and survival to one prisoner, Colonel Nicholson, a proud perfectionist. Pitted against the warden, Colonel Saito, Nicholson will nevertheless, out of a distorted sense of ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 28th 2007 by Presidio Press (first published 1952)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  7,496 ratings  ·  328 reviews

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Mar 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: military
I decided to finally read this "classic" after a trip to Bangkok late last year. My colleague and I took a day trip to (and, indeed, walked across) the Bridge Over the River Kwai and visited the nearby military cemetery (which is attractive, well organized and maintained, and, well, moving), and the extremely informative museum. (OK, we rode elephants too, but that's not relevant.) Of course, all of this merely reinforces that this popular book is a work of FICTION, as was the movie. One of the ...more
Jan 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Three stars for The Bridge Over the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle. I liked it, but man 'o man, it annoyed me. A product of it's times (written in 1954), Kwai is both stereotypical and stiff in the telling of a 1942, WWII, Pacific Theatre event.

I suppose most have at least seen or heard of the film starring Alec Guinness and William Holden. The stiff-necked Brit Colonel Nicholson whose pride blinds his patriotism somehow and the attending figures that surround him. Colonol Saito his Japanese
2.5 Rounded up.

I have not seen the film that is based on the book, though I can imagine that the film might bring out some of the personalities better, especially given the cast. Boulle's idea for the book is certainly intriguing, but until the last few pages, it lacks drama. For such a short book (really almost a novella), I thought Boulle repeated himself, particularly about how great western engineering was, and how the British soldier was such a better example of humanity than his Japanese
Jul 06, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: reviewed, classics
This is a book where I will fully admit that my modern perspective is a huge part of why I couldn't stand it. Studied as an historical text, with extensive contextualization before reading, it might come off different, but... from a 2016 perspective, this is a deeply (insistently, even ardently) racist book about... supreme stupidity, to be honest, in the guise of honor.

It's the racism that bugs me the most, honestly. I know when this book was written, and I know that the Japanese Army was
May 03, 2011 rated it liked it
I always feel odd rating a classic, as it is so far beyond my power to comment on, whether for good or for evil. I both loved the book and hated it, and now that I've gotten all the way through it, I will have to process and then read it again to try to get my mind around it.

I spent most of the book struggling to understand what I was reading. I couldn't connect with the characters, especially Nicholson--I spent the first part of the book beating my head against the wall trying to understand
The Celtic Rebel (Richard)
I read this book the first time as an assignment for World History class in high school. I read the book and then later saw the movie. To me the book was a thousand times better than the movie. Pierre Boulle's writing was excellent and the best thing here is the great character study of these men. Since the book is based on his own experiences during World War II, it is a great look into what life was like for these soldiers.

It is a book that you can't read with 21st Century glasses on. You
Nov 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, military
3.75 stars

I usually came across this fiction during my college years in a number of good bookshops in Bangkok but I thought it was beyond my reading capability so I never picked it up to read. I vaguely knew from my reading that there was an acclaimed film entitled The Bridge On the River Kwai (1957) but, surprisingly, I had never watched it until the menacingly advanced internet era allows us to watch any film at will (provided that we are lucky, that film in question is copyright-free) by
Burn in Hell, Colonel Nicholson!
Hajarath Prasad Abburu
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: secret-santa
Finally! Now I'll be able to watch the classic film which was adapted from this book.

It's fun to read a really straight forward, old fashioned narrative once in a while. Especially when both the protagonist and antagonist are not caricaturish, despite being painted in broad strokes of good and evil. And ofcourse, Doctor Clipton lends able support with his pleasant confusion about the protagonist.

Now Watching : The Bridge Over the River Kwai :P
Dan Corley
Sep 25, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is old school. The hardest 150 pages I have choked on so far. One thing to remember about this story is that it is fiction and not a true story. There was much more the author could have done with the story because it is fiction, but didn't. The most interesting part was the POW British soldiers building this bridge. That kept interest for the first 100 pages, but the last 50 were horrible, all the while there are old school views of the Japanese people behaving like savages and perceived ...more
Mar 30, 2009 rated it liked it
This is one of my all-time favorite movies. So I came to the book with great expectations. This, however, is one of the few instances where I found the movie to be more intertaining than the book. The story was good, actually more believable than the movie, but not nearly as ingaging as the movie. There are two major difference between the movie and book:
William Holden's character is not in the book, and the ending is very different (I won't give it away).
I was slightly disappointed.
Donald Kirch
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read the book first. the movie. Wonderfully written!!
James Haggarty
Jun 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Bridge over the River Kwai is a book set in the time of WW2 where British soldiers are captured and kept as prisoners of war in a Japanese camp. The Japanese camp is set to create a bridge so Japanese trains can move across the river Kwai. These British soldiers are led and assigned to create the bridge that goes over the Kwai, led by their officer, a perfectionist who looks at the bridge as a symbol of British genius and hard working. While these soldiers want to show the Japanese that the ...more
Jan 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-of-2017
Not much to say about this one. It was solidly okay. The characters are all pretty two-dimensional, the plot was a little predictable, and the writing was a little confusing in parts. The timeline and perspectives jump around a bit in a way that sometimes made it unclear which parts came when. I think that might be a translation issue more than anything else, but it did mean I was flipping back and forth trying to piece the sequence together.

I did enjoy the last 30 or 40 pages of the book where
Nov 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war
Enjoyed this very much. A short story, but such an interesting theme. Two ongoing stories, one to build a bridge by British POW's and the struggle by their Colonel to retain some control over his people from the Japanese soldiers and the second story, a mission to destroy the bridge by British soldiers as part of the war effort. Very interesting.
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting character study.
Pamela Mclaren
It seems that I have always known about the film made from this book but other than knowing that it was about war and prisoners of war who make the bridge, I really knew very little.

And I was surprised when I went out to find the book and while the film was readily available at my local library, the book was not. When I finally found it and started reading, I discovered perhaps why. This would not be considered a politically correct book and is actually quite xenophobic when it comes to the
I wanted to know how much of this book was based on fact so I looked it up before starting my review - I felt it was important that I knew how much was fiction. In terms of writing a good book, Pierre Boulle succeeded; in terms of writing an accurate depiction of what the prisoners of war experienced when building this particular bridge, he failed. As I've written in many of my reviews I enjoy learning through fiction, but I did enjoy this book regardless of how little of the story is based on ...more
Amy "the book-bat"
I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. I was disappointed in the ending, therefore the book only gets 4 stars instead of 5.
Jun 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Despite the fact that this reviewer could not rid herself of a constant mental repetition of “The Colonel Bogey March” while reading this book, it is a truly engaging, if staggeringly frustrating, tale. Colonel Nicholson, an even-tempered British leader of the old school, will not ever let go the basic tenets of gentlemen’s rules of conduct in war. Colonel Saito, in the other hand, is a mercurial and violent man, given to fits of deadly rage – but is himself a pawn in the plans of his superior ...more
John Defrog
The first thing to mention is that I haven’t seen the film. The second thing to mention is that it’s a challenging book to read in 2016 because of the inherent racism in the narrative. The anti-Japanese sentiment is to be expected from an early 50s WW2 novel written by an author who was a POW in Asia (albeit under the Vichy French, not the Japanese), but the premise of the British POWs – led by Col. Nicholson – that Anglo-Saxon civilization is superior to Oriental civilization comes across as ...more
J. McMahon
I come to this book with a lot of baggage. I have been living in Kanchanaburi where the Siamese-Burma rail line was built just on the banks of the River Kwai for fifteen years. I've read every book on the railway and I do motorcycle tours of the line. I've written about Thailands role in war world II and visited many other historical sites around Asia. So when I picked up the book I expected for it to be a bit lacking and it was. It reads like a military procedural. It lacks any feeling of ...more
Edward H. Busse, III
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-owned
I picked this up at our local Library sale in Jan. '14 on a whim thinking a classic novel/story now and then couldn't hurt. I was not disappointed by this book. Mr. Boulle's writing is excellent - giving the reader an excellent sense of what it's like to be in war...the physical struggles...the emotional pains. Also, how the psyche plays such a huge part in war/battle. Everybody knows the story in the book so I won't bore you with repeating it here but suffice it to say that the writing puts the ...more
May 11, 2009 rated it liked it
The tag line on my copy of this book reads, "Suspense and Sabotage Behind the Jap Lines". Given this, I shouldn't have been surprised when the leitmotif of the book was the superiority - intellectual, physical, strategical - of western "civilised" culture in contrast to the portrayed barbarism and weakness of the Japanese. Nevertheless, the message began to grate, more from its repetition than its content - and in general I found that the narrative voice kept pulling me out of an otherwise ...more
Sep 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
A great story told in sharp, honest, and consice prose. Some characters may seem a bit one dimensional, but the ones that really matter are multi-faceted, especially the colonel. Boulle captures the pyschology of the collaborator in a believable fashion and makes the reader sympathize with him until it is too late; by the time we realize our mistake events have already gone past the point of no return.

Some of the passages about the workers/soldiers' high morale while buidling the bridge under
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A classic Pierre Boulle novel, this one does not disappoint! I am a huge fan of Boulle's narrative voice, a man after my own heart. He has an analytic style of writing, valuing and revering calm critical thinking. An electrical engineer turned soldier turned writer, he provides very intimate and detailed opinions of each military leader and seems to sympathize the most with the young soldier and doctor, both loyal yet merciful, moral characters. The novel can be a long read even though it is ...more
May 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Both well-written and well-paced, it was an easy read, but it also brought to the fore its examination of a certain type of psychological tension (fixation on a goal/outcome). Fun to read. Some of the more minor actors get a bit lost in the last third of the book (e.g., it starts out as though it were being told from Clipton's POV; however, it's almost as if the author went back and added things back in to make Clipton more present - he doesn't seem sufficiently well-written from the natural ...more
Feb 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As far as war stories go, All Quiet on the Western Front this is not. This book is definitely a product of its time. The writing is stiff and dry and the stereotypes and nationalism of the characters is oversold in places. I've heard that the movie is better than the book, so maybe I need to see it now. Ron Swanson would approve.
Aug 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Flexibility can never be appreciated enough, be prepared for the n+1th twist. War is ruthless and sacrifices are necessary (or are they indeed?) - reading the book gives one a great amount of ammunition for thinking about. The Bridge can be a symbol of how much humans are 'capable' - the relativistic answer depends on the angle you look at the bridge from.
Mar 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Historians, Anyone
I was surprised at how much I loved this novel. I am a fan of the second World War, but usually a European campaign fan. This was an excellent novel, though, fast paced and thoughtful.

I was glad to not be overtaken by too much description or military terms which would have lost my interest too quickly. However, I believe anyone may be able to read this novel.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Pierre Boulle (20 February 1912 – 30 January 1994) was a French novelist best known for two works, The Bridge over the River Kwai (1952) and Planet of the Apes (1963) that were both made into award-winning films.

Boulle was an engineer serving as a secret agent with the Free French in Singapore, when he was