Literary Award Winners Fiction Book Club discussion

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Past Reads > The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Section III, Part IV Uncle Pio through The End

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message 1: by Tamara (new)

Tamara (tamaracat) | 155 comments Mod
Please discuss the entire novella The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Use spoiler tags when necessary.


message 2: by Irene (new)

Irene | 545 comments This book will haunt me. I did not expect the fate of the priest who tries to discern a Divine plan in human events.


message 3: by Laurie (new)

Laurie (sweetramona) I am glad to have read this small book. I have never read Wilder, and have not seen any of his plays. I had a perception of him (which I now realise is almost certainly incorrect) that he was sort of the Norman Rockwell of American letters - a nostalgist for an idealised form of Americana. So I was really happily surprised by the complexity of the portraits here, particularly of the Marquesa and Esteban. I appreciated that no one in this book was wholly good or wholly bad, and that several were able to undergo a moral change.

This makes me want to know more of his work. I am curious to know what his other works have to say about the Divine plan vs. the redemptive power of love and human connection.


message 4: by Irene (new)

Irene | 545 comments I love the way you describe your feeling of lives interrupted. I think that is exactly the sense that Wilder is trying to create. After all, these characters are going along, preoccupied with their plans and regrets, their loves and their disappointments. Then, without warning, they are dead. And, how do we, the living, make sense of it? If it is random, unexplicable, senseless, then we live in constant perril. Every moment is a step into the abyss. But, if we can find some pattern, then maybe we can control our own fates, walk with a bit of confidence, even if it is a false confidence.


message 5: by Irene (new)

Irene | 545 comments So what did you think of the ending? Were you surprised by the priest's condemnation? Why was he
put to death?


message 6: by NCW (new)

NCW | 24 comments So I haven't gotten to the end (I am on vacation without that book with me) but I am wondering if anyone has thoughts on what David Mitchell was trying to do in Cloud Atlas with the themes from this book -- for those of you who have read that book as well. (Sorry if this is off topic.) There is obviously the character Luisa Rey. There is the imagery of plunging to near death from a bridge. There is the construction of lives that are all connected and nested inside of one another. But anything else? Maybe I am reading too much into it since Cloud Atlas is on my mind lately.


message 7: by Katy (new)

Katy (kathy_h) Oh, I've got to read Cloud Atlas now. I've been looking for my next read. That just might be it.


message 8: by Irene (new)

Irene | 545 comments Haven't read Cloud Atlas


message 9: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Burton (goneabroad71) | 12 comments This book was so interesting -- really short, yet powerful. In some ways I was expecting more -- especially about the priest and why the church condemned him. I also struggled with the idea that I was just getting to know the characters when they died...but as someone else noted, that's the point. And that's how real life often is. Death leaves us feeling like we didn't complete something.


message 10: by Tamara (new)

Tamara (tamaracat) | 155 comments Mod
I really appreciate all your comments and perspectives on this book. I wish I had taken something away from it but unfortunately I read it only in short bursts when I was tired during an extremely busy time so I don't think I got the full effect of the book. I find it very interesting that many of you felt your relationships with the characters was cut off, just as in real life and death. I unfortunately never felt like I knew the characters all that well. Again, probably because of how I read the book. But SO glad that the majority of participants seemed to enjoy it so much!


message 11: by Cat (new)

Cat | 28 comments I loved this book! I loved the search for meaning and how beautifully written it was--the word I was thinking to describe the prose was "weightless." I also thought Wilder was the Norman Rockwell for literature--I think I got the impression because my only previous exposure to him was Our Town, which I loved. I would have had no problem with small town America but was pleasantly surprised at the complexity of this book. I love the last line: "Soon we shall die and all memory...will have left earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough."


message 12: by Irene (new)

Irene | 545 comments The priest was trying to explain this tragidy, to figure out a just God, but Wilder wants us to believe, like the First Letter of John, that God is LOVE which is beyond rational explanation. And, when we love, when we are loved and love others, we participate in the most holy of acts, we bridge the gulf between the random and the MYSTERIOUS, between the temporal and the eternal, between the seemingly meaningless and Ultimate Meaning.


message 13: by NCW (new)

NCW | 24 comments I finally had a chance to sit down for a block of time and finish this book. I really enjoyed it. I also thought the writing was lovely and transporting. I had also only read Our Town (in high school) before so I'm grateful to have exposed to this.

As I mentioned earlier, my reading was really influenced by the connections between this book and David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. I saw a number of connections in the bridge and cloud imagery between the two books and other hints (like the Abbess and Luisa Rey characters in CA).

I also found that a couple of my favorite lines were about love:

"There is a land of living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning."

And, from Uncle Pio:

"He regarded love as a sort of cruel malady through which the elect are required to pass in their late youth and from which they emerge, pale and wrung, but ready for the business of living. There was (he believed) a great repertory of errors mercifully impossible to human beings who had recovered from this illness."

Beautiful!


message 14: by Jay (last edited Sep 08, 2014 04:06PM) (new)

Jay | 37 comments The very to-the-point way in which Wilder introduced, brought us with, then closed the chapter of the characters journey to the bridge, was refreshing and written with an ease I could almost feel. Cat, weightless, is the perfect way to put it! I haven't read any of his other books, but now def on the list.


message 15: by Jay (new)

Jay | 37 comments Irene wrote: "The priest was trying to explain this tragidy, to figure out a just God, but Wilder wants us to believe, like the First Letter of John, that God is LOVE which is beyond rational explanation. And, ..."

Irene, beautifully put.


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Literary Award Winners Fiction Book Club

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