Again and again, the novelist and playwright Thornton Wilder explores in his works the connections between the commonplace and cosmic dimensions of human experience, always returning to fundamental questions about the meaning of life.
The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of the true great American classics, has been translated into more than 30 languages. The book won Wilder the first of his three Pulitzer Prizes.
©1927 Albert and Charles Boni Inc., ©1955 renewed by Thornton Wilder; (P)1997 HighBridge Company
"A masterpiece." (New York Herald Tribune)
"A melancholy narrative of great power, simplicity and beauty." (AudioFile)
I highly recommend this novel, and enjoyed it thoroughly.
The story begins with the end – in Peru in 1714 a bridge collapses, killing five people. Brother Juniper, a monk who witnesses the disaster and is also fascinated with the idea of scientifically proving God’s existence, collects and analyzes the evidence of these victims’ lives, hoping to witness God’s plan.
We then are taken into the lives of the individuals who died on the bridge – who they were, how they lived, and what forces drew them to cross that bridge at that fateful moment. Though seemingly unrelated at first, they are in fact indirectly related to Camila Perichole, a former Peruvian actress.
Upon reading, I had initial fears that TBOSLR would depict the predictable 20th century existentialist world, where “God’s plan” is synonymous with “panacea” and that each of our lives is purposeless. Though I will not reveal the ending, Wilder steeres clear of this conclusion.
Sam Waterston’s voice (Law and Order) is excellent. Perhaps some do not like his plodding, tired style, but I feel it fits this novel perfectly.
Wilder's masterful accomplishment rests upon his proficiency in theatre. Limiting himself to only a few short scenes for each character, he perfectly encapsulates their motivations, dreams, fears, and essences. Readers will enjoy the depth of characters enclosed in such a brief novel.
Unlike other reviewers, I have no problems with Waterston's performance. However, two technical issues seriously detract from the listening experience. First, the sound is muffled, probably due to the performance having been originally a book on tape. Second, two of the audiobook's six chapters are out of order! The correct listening order should be 1, 2, 4, 3, 5, 6. Audible, most of the time I love your products, but you should correct problems like this, or at least warn us!
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
This is a short but profound meditation on the moments that can bring a sense of reconciliation and redemption to our lives, and how we misunderstand or misinterpret even those we are closest to. I remain somewhat mystified as to why he chose to base this, however loosely, on actual historical persons, or why he dislocated them in time from their actual historical dates. For that matter, I remain mystified as to why the book's internal timeline refuses to behave itself. None of this detracts from the beauty and concision of this gem of a book.
The recording has mysteries of its own. Sam Waterston is a fine actor and his reading is full of expressive nuances, but for some reason the sound is muddy. I can't tell if this is because it's an old transfer from tape, or if Mr. Waterston's voice is pitched oddly, or because he lacks that special clipped diction that makes other readers more listenable. Maybe my hearing is just suffering from old age.
As perfect as a novel can get. Very short...but fervid with the hard questions we sometimes don't think of asking ourselves. "Why am I on this earth?" "What led me to this point?" Very modern in construction but a period piece. The most memorable characters in literature. The reader...not great. I LOVE Sam Waterston but his reading is very quiet, very breathy and emphysemaed. Perhaps previous he was kicked in the chest by a mule?
Book: A Reader: C-
A lover of thrillers and enthralling stories told by dramatic and well read narrators.
I'm sure that this is an amazing tome of fate and the like, but the audio quality is so bad that I asked for a refund. I can't understand the narrator.
This Pulitzer Prize winning book is poetic and touching. Don't let other reviews about Watterson's voice dissuade you - it may be unusually soft or breathy but is sensitive, and more than listenable. It suits the content of the work.
I have read this book several times, but listening to it was somehow different. I enjoy listening to Sam despite what others have said. I love this book and would have to say it is on my top ten list of books that have affected the way I think about the world. I highly recommend it.
disapointing garbled narration
The story is good.
Difficult to understand his words in several parts.
no emotions except frustration
At first I was surprised by the lack of polish in Sam Waterston's narration, for example, you can hear him inhaling at the end of sentences and he provides no change of voice to emphasize characters or moods. However, I quickly concluded that the narration was perfect for this philosophical novella about fate, love, and life. It is like a wise and favorite uncle talking to you. I found it comforting and soothing, as befitting the message of the final section of the book.
I might have enjoyed this book more if I could have understood more of the words. The narrator mumbled and swallowed his words. Seemed like he was running out of breath at the end of a sentence so one could not hear what he was saying.
Difficult to enjoy the story the reading was so poor.
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