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The Bridge of San Luis Rey (original 1927; edition 2003)

by Thornton Wilder, Russell Banks (Foreword)

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2,900661,988 (3.79)120
Member:writestuff
Title:The Bridge of San Luis Rey
Authors:Thornton Wilder
Other authors:Russell Banks (Foreword)
Info:HarperCollins Canada / Harper Trade (2003), Paperback, 160 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:2007 Read, Pulitzer Project, Classic Literature

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The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder (1927)

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English (65)  Spanish (1)  All languages (66)
Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
This is a book which is often required reading in high school English classes, and I think it suffers for it. This book has a deceptively simple story line, but is much richer and more complex than appears on its face. The lives of the victims of the bridge collapse are varied, and often sad or tragic. This Pulitzer Prize Winning novella is well worth reading. ( )
  whymaggiemay | Mar 23, 2015 |
I am certainly not the first, nor will I be the last, to recognize the brilliance of this novella. This is my first Thornton Wilder read.....how I could have made it this far in life without reading his work is beyond me. Somehow he manages to create vivid and memorable characters who share the experience of dying when a bridge collapses. From that event he proceeds to ask profound and essentially unanswerable questions, of the sort we all try to address or avoid throughout our life. Is there intention? Is there meaning? When is it the right time for as person to die? Is there such a thing or is it all happenstance? The introduction for this 75th anniversary edition of the novel by Russell Banks is excellent. He draws a parallel between the experience of those surviving the bridge collapse to those surviving the 9/11 attacks. The same eternal questions apply. Lovely, powerful prose makes this so very readable and timeless! ( )
  hemlokgang | Mar 4, 2015 |
The last lines are beautiful. ( )
  kmelchor | Feb 8, 2015 |
“On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.” And so begins The Bridge of San Luis Rey, which is a small masterpiece. Wilder’s prose is beautiful and he creates great character sketches in a work that is all framed to consider the question “Is there a direction and meaning in lives beyond the individual’s own will?” He applies just the right touch artistically for so weighty a subject, and in the end, as in life, the “answer” is really up to the reader. Highly recommended.

Some fun facts: Wilder was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and graduated from Berkeley High School. The book launched him to immediate worldwide fame; his teaching salary at the time was $3,000 and the book made him $87,000 in 1928 alone, which is about a million dollars in today’s currency. Lastly, David Mitchell fans will recall the character Luisa Rey, named as an homage to this work, as well as perhaps recall the epigraph to Ghostwritten, taken from the end of the first chapter:
“And I, who claim to know so much more, isn’t it possible that even I have missed the very spring within the spring?
Some say that we shall never know and that to the gods we are like 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.”

A couple of other quotes that I loved:
On literature:
“…the Conde delighted in her letters, but he thought that when he had enjoyed the style he had extracted all their richness and intention, missing (as most readers do) the whole purport of literature, which is the notation of the heart.”

And this one on love, which I found that Tony Blair used in a memorial service for British victims of 9/11:
“But soon we shall die and all memories of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning." ( )
3 vote gbill | Jan 23, 2015 |
A beautiful little book centring on characters that perish in a tragedy. A bridge collapses in Peru in the 1700s. Ends up where you don't expect. ( )
  charlie68 | Jan 22, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
It is no exaggeration to say that on second reading I was completely blown away, not so much by Wilder's sensitive treatment of his central theme as by the richness and power of his prose.

It is an entirely remarkable book, it has lost none of its pertinence in the eight decades since its publication, and I'm very glad indeed that my old friend sent me back to it.
 

» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thornton Wilderprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abrahams-van Raalte, J.H.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bergsma, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Charlot, JeanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Drevenstedt, AmyIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hicks, GranvilleIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hicks, GranvilleIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kent, RockwellIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leighton, ClareIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perlstein-van Raalte, A. vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travellers into the gulf below.
Foreword

Thornton Wilder's Bridge of San Luis Rey is as close to perfect a moral fable as we are ever likely to get in American literature.
Quotations
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 surprise the reason of their taking off.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060088877, Paperback)

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 Luis Rey, one of the towering achievements in American fiction and a novel read throughout the world.

By chance, a monk witnesses the tragedy. Brother Juniper then embarks on a quest to prove that it was divine intervention rather than chance that led to the deaths of those who perished in the tragedy. His search leads to his own death -- and to the author's timeless investigation into the nature of love and the meaning of the human condition.

This new edition of Wilder’s 1928 Pulitzer Prize winning novel contains a new foreword by Russell Banks.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:57 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

This beautiful new edition features unpublished notes for the novel and other illuminating documentary mate- rial, 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 Luis Rey, one of the towering achievements in American fiction and a novel read throughout the world. By chance, a monk witnesses the tragedy. Brother Juniper then embarks on a quest to prove that it was divine intervention rather than chance that led to the deaths of those who perished in the tragedy. His search leads to his own death -- and to the author's timeless investigation into the nature of love and the meaning of the human condition.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 10 descriptions

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