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Publisher's Summary

The Bridge of San Luis Rey, first published in 1927, was Thornton Wilder's first major work and won him instant international recognition. The story concerns the lives of five people who fall to their deaths on July 20, 1714, when a rope bridge breaks on a road near Lima, Peru. A humble Franciscan, Brother Juniper, witnesses the accident and determines to learn about the lives of the victims in order to find out whether this accident happened by chance or by plan.

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

Critic Reviews

  • Pulitzer Prize winner

"A masterpiece." (New York Herald Tribune) "A melancholy narrative of great power, simplicity and beauty." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Tobin
  • Alton, IL, USA
  • 03-30-06

Compact novel about fate, destiny

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.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • RKL
  • Sewickley, PA
  • 11-15-13

Excellent Story, But Poor Audiobook Technically

What aspect of Sam Waterston’s performance would you have changed?

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!

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Couldn't hear it

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.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Strong Moral Questions Contained Within

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-

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Monumental book and Sensitive Narration

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Barry
  • Petaluma, CA, United States
  • 08-14-13

Short but profound

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.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

narration enormous disappointment

If you could sum up The Bridge of San Luis Rey in three words, what would they be?

disapointing garbled narration

What was most disappointing about Thornton Wilder’s story?

The story is good.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Difficult to understand his words in several parts.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

no emotions except frustration

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

narrator mumbled

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.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Classic literature

Any additional comments?

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.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • William
  • Cherry Hill, NJ, USA
  • 01-24-08

Is Waterson dying?

I started listening to this audiobook having forgotten that Sam Waterson was the narrator, if I ever knew. Fifteen minutes into it I wondered who was the terminally-ill emphysemic Audible had recruited to ruin this download for me. I was shocked to read it was an actor, a well-known one at that.
Waterson is constantly running out of breath at the end of sentences. His tone lacks all nuance, let alone any emotion. It is dry, dull, gasping, wheezing, colorless and hard to hear.
Otherwise, Waterson is a fine choice.
Don't quit your day job, Sam.

6 of 10 people found this review helpful