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The Bridge of San Luis Rey

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  28,089 ratings  ·  1,885 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This beautiful new edition features unpublished notes for the novel and other illuminating documentary material, all of which is included in a new Afterword by Tappan Wilder.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 San
Paperback, 160 pages
Published April 15th 2003 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published January 1st 1927)
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AGMaynard I never say a book written by someone else is "better" than another. Like comparing the famous apples and oranges. Both are fruit, both are novels.

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 ·  28,089 ratings  ·  1,885 reviews

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Aug 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classic-novels
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
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american
Gentle Sarcasm; Sarcasm Nevertheless

It appears to be commonplace among many readers (and several film directors) to interpret this story as a paean to love based on its oft quoted closing “There is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning." Rubbish. The story is patently sarcastic, gently so to be sure, which is part of its artistry, but sarcastic nonetheless. The only examples of love in the story are either obsessive fixation or
Henry Avila
Feb 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On the 20th of July, 1714, in the Spanish colony of Peru, five people descended to eternity, when they fell into an enormous abyss. Ironically, as colorful birds sung sweetly nearby , a beautiful scene of snowy mountains, far away, seen, and green vegetation with pretty trees below. The noon collapse of the bridge of San Luis Rey, not only killed the poor unfortunates, but maybe more important, showed the world, how precious life is. An uncommon novel because it tells the reader at the very ...more
Emily May
Sep 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, 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."

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
Jason Koivu
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This is not mere writing. This is poetic philosophy.

I'd heard it was good, but I didn't know what to expect from Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey. For all I knew, it took place somewhere along the Californian coast along with all the other Sans and Santas. After all, there is the San Luis Rey Mission in San Diego. But no, this is set in Peru. Even better! I love when a story transports me some place I've never been before.

The concept in a nutshell as explained on Wikipedia:

It tells
Feb 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, pulitzer-w
Let me draw a scene for you. You are standing at the balcony of a high rise building and looking down at the busy road of the evening hours. You spot a fleet of coloured cars, nudging each other with a relaxed urgency, you see little boys in nickers and little girls in frocks tugging their mothers for sweet somethings, you see ebullient couples stealing a kiss while keeping an eye on the pedestrians, you locate the lesser-privileged scrapping at the abandoned baskets for respectable leftovers, ...more
Dec 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Believers and non believers
Recommended to Dolors by: Steve Sckenda
Shelves: read-in-2013, dost
“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
Ruby Granger
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Seeing as I study spanish, I loved the hispanic undertones to this book and enjoyed translating snippets from Castilian into English. Not only this, but there was a strong Catholic undercurrent in the novel, no doubt a consequence of the denomination's popularity in the hispanic world, and this made for enjoyable analysing. The novel is told by means of three separate stories, each one sending with the same event: the bridge. It's a beautiful representation of human community and the connections ...more
This is a classic novel that has been on my radar simply because it is on many "must read" lists. A Pulitzer Prize winning best seller that has been made into 3 movies and has occasionally been an influence on other novels, I figured this was a book I should eventually get to.

I am settling on 3.5 out of 5 stars. Not sure if I should round up or round down . . .

The idea was interesting - a monk trying to determine if there is scientific/mathmatical evidence as to why certain people die in
Aug 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’m having a hard time reviewing this book. It seems an insignificant booklet that deals with a strange story, a stubborn monk who tries to find a connection that logically links the death of five people in the collapse of the bridge of San Luis Rey in 1714... OK, you will say, why can such a theme be so hostile in its understanding?
It made me think a lot once finished it, a book that seems to be conceived giving the reader multiple ways and possibilities of reading...
Historical: with many
Vit Babenco
Apr 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Bridge of San Luis Rey is a beautifully written book full of eternal questions.
If there were any plan in the universe at all, if there were any pattern in a human life, surely it could be discovered mysteriously latent in those lives so suddenly cut off. Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan. And on that instant Brother Juniper made the resolve to inquire into the secret lives of those five persons, that moment falling through the air, and to
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
May 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012, favorites

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
Connie G
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
The first sentence of this novella grabs our attention: "On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below." Brother Juniper was a witness to the terrible event and wondered why these five people were the victims. Was it fate or divine intervention?

For six years Brother Juniper studied the lives of these five people looking for patterns in their lives, or reasons that their deaths might be part of God's plan. The
Jul 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pulitzer
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
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 ...more
On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.

Thus begins The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Brother Juniper, a Franciscan monk, witnesses the collapse, and he sets out to know about the five people and determine why God chose to end those five lives on that day.

Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan.> poses Brother Juniper. In doing so, he asks the fundamental question
"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
Apr 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
K.D. Absolutely
Nov 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Judith
Shelves: time-100, pulitzer
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 ...more
Dec 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 09, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There are countless ways of wondering at circumstance. The Bridge of San Luis Rey in Peru collapsed on July 20, 1714, and killed five travelers. Was it an act of God? In the aftermath of the mysterious disappearance about a week ago of a Malaysian aircraft and its 239 passengers, this same question must have surfaced in many troubled minds. Do the tragedies that befall men “belie the notion of a guided world”? In his very short but profound novel, Thornton Wilder raised theological questions. ...more
Bob Newman
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fickle Finger of Fate Fells Five

I grew up and still live in an old gray house with many trees in a small Massachusetts town by the sea. Well, town once was a lot smaller. As I grew up, I seldom met people from other countries, particularly those who were not European. So, I was deeply shocked when at age 25 I met a woman whose aunt had been born in our house around the turn of the 20th century. The aunt had married a Muslim man from India. I was shocked because I was about to marry a Hindu woman
Feb 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
I had such high hopes for this book. It sounded like a plot I should love, and it's a classic, Pulitzer Prize-winning book by one of America's best-loved authors. How could it not be a wonderful reading experience? Somehow, though, I just didn't enjoy it. I never came to feel anything for any of the characters and the writing didn't age well for me. I was anxious to just finish it and move on. Sigh.
Jun 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, i-expected-more
I had high hopes for this one! I loved the premise but the whole thing remained pretty flat throughout. It was a short quick read tho, I read thru in less than two hours so not a major time investment. 3 stars is on the high side for how bored I was while reading this, but I gave an extra star for concept:)
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It was a nice story with interesting characters. What more could you want?
Kelly ...
After a bridge in Peru collapses, killing 5, a local monk named Brother Juniper goes about learning their stories and trying to determine why they died. The results are interesting because there are no answers. The book actually inserts contradictions, and leaves Brother Juniper (and the reader) in a place where he must determine for himself the whys. I liked this aspect of the book as death is like that. We find ourselves looking back at the lives of our friends and seeking from God the answers ...more
Nov 05, 2015 added it
Shelves: did-not-finish
DNF, I just didn't want to pick it up bad enough to finish,
I got to page 41 and was forever distracted
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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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“The knowledge that she would never be loved in return acted upon her ideas as a tide acts upon cliffs.” 223 likes
“There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.” 132 likes
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