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The Bridge Over the River Kwai

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  8,479 ratings  ·  386 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 dut ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 28th 2007 by Presidio Press (first published 1952)
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Brett C
May 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2
I enjoyed this WW2 story that inspired the 1957 movie. The story follows two plots that come to a point in the end, like the movie, Colonel Nicholson and the POW construction crew building the bridge. The other being the demolitions/sabotage team conducting a special operations warfare style mission to blow up the bridge.

Colonel Nicholson was prideful, a hard-line disciplinarian, and 'snob' of the officer corps. Colonel Saito was the strict Japanese camp commandant under pressure from the Japan
I enjoyed this tale of obsession within a parable on the futility and absurdity of war, loosely based on Japanese use of British prisoners of war to build a railroad bridge in the jungles of Siam during World War II.

Boulle as narrator opens the novel equating the values and behavior of the West, specifically the British, and more specifically its symbol, Col. Nicholson, with those of the East, i.e. the Japanese, i.e. and its symbol, Col. Saito.
During the last war 'saving face' was perhaps as
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
Oct 14, 2020 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: seen-as-movies, war
Movie Review
Master film maker David Lean did a great job while adapting this book for the big screen.It was a great success commercially and won the Best Picture Oscar as well.

Alec Guinness plays Colonel Nicholson,a British prisoner of war in a Japanese camp.He would rather die for his principles than give in to the demands of Colonel Saito,the Japanese camp commandant.

Those principles are not worth dying for,however.If his officers are made to do manual labour,he would rather be shot than agree
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 count
Bryan--Pumpkin Connoisseur
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 c
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 wh
Jul 06, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: classics, reviewed
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 respo
Deborah Ideiosepius
This was, in my personal opinion, a complete stinker.

This book is raved about by so many people, it and the movie it inspired were the forerunners of a great deal of historical literature, film and documentaries about the bridge in question and the Japanese WWII prison camps that worked on the Burma railway. Some have called it 'a classic war novel' but I found it appallingly badly written (or possibly translated, I would not know), stereotyped way past the point of caricature, incredibility ver
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 defi
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 simp
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. ...more
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
Ayesha Siddiqua
Sad ending😢...but it’s of the best book based on 2nd world war, the british prisoner made this bridge on River Kwai in Japan...
Remembering Colonel Nicholson, Major Shears, Lieutenant Joyce.....
Jul 20, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes, we are the victim of our own overarching expectations. As it happened to me with this book. I remember picking it up, nearly three years ago, out of all the Vintage paperbacks with red spines lined up in the shelf (and mind you, there were so many Greene books as well - at that time, I was not into Greene at all!) and as I saw that beautifully illustrated cover, I could almost hear Malcolm Arnold's rousing score - not only the Bogey March but also those swells as those parachutes drop ...more
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 a ...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.
Christopher Saunders
Apr 25, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021-reads
Pierre Boulle's The Bridge Over the River Kwai is a short parable about the ironies of war. British Colonel Nicholson, taken prisoner by the Japanese, is assigned to construct a railway bridge; after winning a battle of wills with the brutal camp commandant, Colonel Saito, Nicholson begins constructing a bridge better and more efficiently than the Japanese could have done on their own. Meanwhile, a British commando team seeks to destroy it. This simple story is laced with acerbic humor about an ...more
Jan 29, 2021 rated it it was ok
ya allah the men you put on this earth to go to war are obsessing over a bridge
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 Brit ...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
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting character study.
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.
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tao-đàn
I can't shake the feeling of familiarity about this book, that this book bears similar details with a play I learned at high school: Vu Nhu To, by Nguyen Huy Tuong. The more I read it, the feeling became stronger.
The book has 3 parts. The first tells the story on the side of the captured English, by the fascist Japanese, and the conditions they have to endure. Among the prisoners, we see Colonel Nicholson, raised as a true representative not only of the spirits of discipline in the army (even th
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 term
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 f ...more
Julie Rothenfluh
Mar 01, 2021 rated it liked it
The Bridge on the River Kwai is one of my favorite movies, mostly because of William Holden. Well, his character isn’t even in the book! Most of the rest of the story is pretty close, except the ending. The book was written in 1954 and is just over 200 pages long; it felt longer! It’s a book of it’s time and some of the descriptions of Asians show that. It’s definitely Euro-centric. I felt some of the discussions and descriptions in the parts about the special forces group bogged things down a b ...more
Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
I really enjoy this movie. The book is basically the same. Unfortunately, the book is much more derogatory towards the Japanese. While this is understandable given when and by whom it was written, it is still difficult to read.
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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 captu

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