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The Bridge of San Luis Rey
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Past Reads > The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Section I, Beginning through Part II The Marquesa de Montemayor

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Tamara (tamaracat) | 155 comments Mod
Please discuss the first section of The Bridge of San Luis Rey from the beginning through the end of Part II, The Marquesa de Montemayor. Use spoiler tags when necessary.

Irene | 530 comments Well, this book was so short that I breezed through it in one sitting. I think it took me about 2 hours to read. I like the way Wilder creates characters. We have a great sense of the Marquise's neediness and of the strength born of isolation of Pepita. Even though the chapter focuses on the Marquise, I was drawn to the little girl in the shadows.

message 3: by NCW (new) - rated it 4 stars

NCW | 24 comments I have read just to this point (end of Part II) and I'm enjoying this so far. I take it from the set up that Wilder is using Brother Juniper to examine the problem of evil in theology (at least loosely). In Part I, he writes: "It seemed to Brother Juniper that it was high time for theology to take its place among the exact sciences and he had long intended putting it there." And here he's playing off what it often called an "Act of God" (by airlines, insurance companies, newspapers :)) -- if something like the collapse of a bridge is an "act of God" then why did God do it? If there's some point to living a life according to religious principles, then shouldn't it be the case that some sense can be made of it? If these people plunged to their deaths, then by looking at their lives we should be able to discover that the sum of their wrongs exceeded the sum of their goods ("He merely wanted to prove it, historically, mathematically, to his converts--poor obstinate converts, so slow to believe that their pains were inserted into their lives for their own good.")
It's interesting that Wilder sets this up at some distance. There's no emotion or mourning or sympathy for those who died, but a scientific removal that maybe will allow Brother Juniper to maintain his faith even if he doesn't discover the divine reason for their deaths: "It was not himself he was trying to convince that rain and drought were wisely apportioned."

The poor Marquesa is overwhelmed by her own lack of control and inability to protect her daughter: "Would all be well? Sweet, sweet Mother, would all be well? At times, after a day's frantic resort to such invocations, a revulsion would sweep over her. Nature is deaf. God is indifferent. Nothing in man's power can alter the course of law."

And then Pepita. If this is supposed to be Brother Juniper's account, how can he account for Pepita? What are we supposed to make of her story?

Irene | 530 comments Yes, Wilder certainly sets this up to reflect a case study with scientific indifference. And, right out of the gate, we see that this project will not be straight forward. The old woman is emotionally needy to the point of being selfish. She is irritating to all who know her, causing her to become increasingly isolated. The young girl is completely selfless, humble and amazingly self possessed for someone so young. She is an inspiration to others and possesses great potential for leadership in great things. The old lady seems to use religion as a crutch while the young girl uses it as a catolyst toward greater virtue. If this study is to uncover some commonality behind the individuals who perish in this tragedy, it is not going to be obvious.

So, what do people think of the premise behind this novel, the popular claim that God has some purpose behind tragic events? Can humans discern this plan if it exists? Should we even try?

Tamara (tamaracat) | 155 comments Mod
Maybe it's because I am SO tired these days when I finally sit down to read, so it took me three sittings to read this section, but I found the section on the Marquesa very confusing.

But, to answer Irene's question, I am looking forward to seeing how Wilder looks to answer this question of God having a purpose and the big question we as humans often have of WHY? Do I think Humans can discern this plan? Well, that would depend on if we believe God actually has a plan. I for one think that (religious) humans often try to make sense of events that are tragig by looking to God for answers, but I also believe that one can never really understand why, but just accept. It will be interesting to see how this theory plays out.

Katy (kathy_h) Just barely started this read. A couple of chapters into it.

message 7: by Jay (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jay | 37 comments What do you think so far, Kathy?

message 8: by Katy (last edited Aug 14, 2014 08:21AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy (kathy_h) Jay wrote: "What do you think so far, Kathy?"

Actually I'm not really sure. Without reading the back of the book, I'm not far enough along to really have an idea of the premise of the book. The writing is very good though.

Of course the past week or so I haven't had much concentrated reading time. Just snatches here and there -- life is good but busy.

Tamara (tamaracat) | 155 comments Mod
Kathy wrote: "Of course the past week or so I haven't had much concentrated reading time. Just snatches here and there -- life is good but busy. ..."

Me too. I haven't been able to sit and read chunks of this book even though it's so short. Just a few pages here and there. I think this book is more meant to be read in one sitting in order to really get the full feeling of it. I feel like I am not doing it justice by reading snippets here and there.

Irene | 530 comments It will be interesting to see if our opinion of the book is shifted by our reading time. I was able to read it in one uninterrupted sitting and found it haunting.

message 11: by Katy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy (kathy_h) Tamara, I am with you. I think I'll have some time tomorrow and will do just that. Irene -- I'll let you know how it works out.

message 12: by Cat (last edited Aug 24, 2014 05:55PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cat | 28 comments Tamara wrote: "Kathy wrote: "Of course the past week or so I haven't had much concentrated reading time. Just snatches here and there -- life is good but busy. ..."

Me too. I haven't been able to sit and read ch..."
I am about to start reading this and I know it will be in bits and pieces. Such a different reading experience than I used to have when I was in school and could just sit for 2 hours and read a novel. I find it so frustrating to read books that require uninterrupted stretches of time (like Tinkers by Paul Harding) and I noticed that I tend to get mad at the author, as if it's his/her fault--this book should be more accessible! I should be able to enter and exit at will! But I know in my heart that I will one day (when I'm not 6 months pregnant with a 2 year old and a part time job, as I am now..."life is good but busy") crave books that require uninterrupted attention and I'm glad that they will be waiting for me.

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