Sunday, October 28, 2012

Book #10: The Bridge of San Luis Rey

The Bridge of San Luis Rey is one of those "Pulp Fiction" or "Snatch" type of stories where a seemingly unrelated cast of characters with their own random plot lines are all magically connected by one incident. In this case, the incident is the collapse of a bridge in Peru which kills a handful of the area's residents. Author Thornton Wilder careful details out the lives of each victim leading up to the moment of their death. It sounds like an interesting enough premise but it only kinda sorta works.
My biggest issue was that I mostly didn't care about any of them. Sure, each character was interesting enough and knowing that they were going to die a tragic death at some undetermined but certain time was stressful. But that just didn't equal me feeling particularly bad when that moment came. Perhaps I'm just a cold dead soul who can't feel any sadness over fictional death, but c'mon man, I cried when Mufasa died just like every other kid in 1994. I can't be completely devoid of emotion!

Getting a peek into the early 1700s life of colonial Peru was interesting but not enough so to bring me to be able to say I enjoyed this book. Truth be told, I had to push myself to get through it. Even with the murder mystery question of "why did they all have to die?" hanging over the plot, I just wasn't feeling it.

I suppose I can at least attempt to answer that "why did they all have to die?" question.  The cynic in me says, "they died because they were all on the bridge at the same time when the ropes failed. The end." but I know there is supposed to be some grand deeper meaning attached to the whole incident.

The victims were (as identified by the chapter titles):
The Marquessa de Montemayor - An ugly child who turned into an ugly woman whose heart is so pure that she can't even tell that everyone hates her.
Pepita - The Marquessa's maid or semi-enslaved human companion. She is an orphan and has a miserable life.
Esteban - A sad orphan boy who turned into a sad orphan man who is incredibly depressed.
Uncle Pio - A past his prime acting coach who has no reason left to live.
Don Jaime - The young son of the famous actress whom Uncle Pito once trained. He lives mostly in isolation with his miserable social climbing mother.

So, as you can see, there isn't a lot to mourn. Within the rigid confines of Imperial Spanish society, each character didn't really have a whole lot of life left to live beyond the miserable ones they had already been living. So perhaps they all died because God thought it would be kinder that way. Of course, in true deity fashion, God makes sure that each character has a shining moment of clarity and false hope before embarking on their trek across the bridge. I suppose it is always more fun to let your prey think escape is possible so that they can die with a slight smile on their sad little faces. Awesome.

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