The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Thornton Wilder won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928 for his book, The Bridge of San Luis Rey. The language in this short book, more a novella, is beautiful and the story compelling. I remember reading it years and years ago (I think I was 17),
but I had forgotten the details of the story.

On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.” The tragedy was witnessed by Brother Juniper, who immediately began to search for answers to the question everyone asked: “Why these five people?” His attempt to find patterns in their lives that would ultimately lead to their deaths was seen as heretical by his own church, and ironically lead to his own death.

The book tells the stories behind each of the five, and Brother Juniper, right up to that moment on the bridge. It is a fascinating and very human tale.

This is definitely a book that should be read when one is 17, and then reread when one is a few months shy of 60 and so well understands the final message of this book — that the most important thing in life is LOVE. That is the detail that I took to heart as a young woman, and that has been part of my guiding belief through all these years.

But soon we shall die and all memory 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.” 

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4 thoughts on “The Bridge of San Luis Rey

  1. Robin

    Thanks, Nymeth. My husband is reading it right now, and he was interested in something said in the introduction. Russell Baker, who wrote the Intro, made the comment that the style of writing was similar to Kundera. I haven’t read any Kundera yet, but my husband really likes his writing, so that perked his interest in this book, too.

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  2. Robin

    Booklogged, I thought it was beautifully written, and quite a story. The only other thing I’ve read by him is Our Town, which was required in my high school English class. I’d be interested in reading some more of his books.

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