Best things in life: books, beaches, cats, chocolate, sunsets, sleep
I am having a hard time reviewing the books I've been reading lately because my reaction to so many of them has been tepid. Very, very tepid. I can say nasty things if I hated something or rave if I loved it. But what does one say to "Oh that was just okay." The Bridge of San Luis Rey is one of the so-so novels for me. It won the Pulitzer Prize but that doesn't make it great in my book.
The story begins with the collapse of a bridge in San Luis Rey, Peru in 1714. A friar who witnessed the collapse and the death of the 5 people on the bridge begins to ponder why these particular people died. He seeks some sort of cosmic answer to the question - why them? So he asks anyone and everyone who knew them and compiles all sorts of facts about their lives. And parts II, III and IV of the novel each focus on one or two of the people and who they were.
Part II is about the Marquesa de Montemayor, a woman obsessed with her daughter. It is all about parental love that is overwhelming but doesn't seem to be returned by the daughter. A young girl, Pepita, is taking care of the Marquesa when she travels to the bridge and is one of the 5 to die. Part III is about Esteban who was taken to a convent at birth and left with his twin brother to be raised in the convent. The twins are closer than even most twins and feel no need for anyone else until the twin, Manuel, falls in love with an actress. So this story focuses on brotherly love. And finally part IV is about Uncle Pio who is a man who spends much of his life training Perichole, the actress with whom Manuel fell in love. Uncle Pio loves Perichole with a romantic love that he does not ever expect to be returned by the object of his love.
So love is the overriding theme of this novel. The other theme, about the idea of whether God chooses those who are wicked or deserving of death more than others who crossed the bridge that day, is interesting but not ultimately answered. I mean who can know the mind of God, if there is one. And Brother Juniper, the friar, seems to discover that not one of the 5 people who died was wholly good or bad, and therefore deserving of death over anyone else. Very universal themes really.