Friday, December 26, 2014

The Bridge of San Luis Rey - Thornton Wilder

The Bridge of San Luis Rey
You all know it has been slow going for me this year in regard to the 100 Best Novels list. Having required reading for grad school left me with little energy or desire for heavy literary reading. 

In light of that, I have made a conscious effort lately to pick up the short books from the list. The longer ones (ahem...I'm looking at you Parade's End) have just been too much and made me feel unmotivated and stalled. The short ones, like this one, make me feel like I'm making progress. Plus, it always helps if I can knock a book out in a day or two. That feels quite satisfying when working toward a goal.

Surprisingly, I am holding steady at the pace of two books per month, should I want to finish by my 30th birthday (which I do). Next year, I am hoping that my new open, flexible schedule allows me more time to dive into those thick volumes that await me on the list.

On to the topic at hand...

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder definitely qualifies as one of the shortest books on the Modern Library list. In fact, at the time of its publication, the publisher was angry with Wilder for not writing something longer that they could reasonably sell for more money. 

The book, set in 18th century Peru, reflects on the lives of five citizens who were suddenly plunged to their deaths when a bridge collapsed. The premise of the novel is this: did they die before their time? why those five and not others? Each chapter explores a victim in depth, revealing their deepest secrets and most broken elements. 

While the plot of the story did not necessarily entrance me, the writing certainly did. This is the first work of Wilder's which I have read (I have seen productions of Our Town, but I am not counting those). His writing is...I don't even know how to describe it. Clear and smooth and polished. It is simple, yet refined. It reminded me of F. Scott Fitzgerald in a way; perhaps because they were contemporaries. Wilder seems to have mastered the beauty of simplicity and letting his characters and his novel speak for themselves. The book is short, but brilliant.

I found it particularly interesting that Wilder was able to capture Peru so realistically, considering that, at the time of writing, he had never been anywhere close to the country. Yet, despite his lack of personal experience, he paints the culture and people well and, at least to the best of my knowledge, fairly accurately. 

This is a book I could see myself coming back to again and again. It is one that is already growing in my mind. I am certainly that multiple exposures will only improve my opinion. 

Pages: 160
Date Completed: November 29, 2014

1 comment:

  1. I loved Our Town when I first read it, but I remember really disliking The Bridge of San Luis Rey when I read it in high school. I should probably reread it one of these days, especially since it's so short. - Maggie @ macarons & paperbacks