September 24, 2012

The Bridge of San Luis Rey

by Thornton Wilder

It is so easy to fall in love with The Bridge of San Luis Rey. In fact, there is practically nothing about it that's not to love.

First, the prose. "Beautiful" would not even begin to describe it. If I were asked to quote a particular passage to exemplify the brilliance of the writing, I would be hard put to choose anything specific.

There are the characters - people so real and warm and full of human frailties, I wish I could have known them all so I could  give each of them a warm embrace. My favorite, however, is not one of the 5 people who perished in the tragedy of the bridge, but instead, lived through it - The Perichole. I appreciated her because she spent practically all of her life blinded by and pursuing social status, under the false impression that it will bring her happiness, only to realize the bitter truth in the end. I liked how, unlike the 5 people who perished, she was given the chance to redeem herself through Madre Maria. For, isn't that what we all deserve? A second chance?

The theme of the book - that everyone is connected - is also something I've learned to appreciate. Now I'm able to understand the inspiration for David Mitchell's equally unforgettable works, Cloud Atlas and Ghostwritten, which carry the same theme of interconnectedness of lives regardless of time.

So, why leave out the last star?

I feel like there ought to be more. As we would say it in Filipino: "Nabitin ako." And it's not because of the abrupt deaths of the main characters, nor of the seemingly unresolved fates of those who were left alive. For, after all, a novel that leaves something for the reader's imagination to speculate on is actually A-okay in my book. I just wish there could have been more of it, that's all.


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