A group of people are crossing the Bridge of San Luis Rey, an Incan rope bridge in Peru, when it collapses and all, tragically, plummet to their deaths. Observing this tragedy is Brother Juniper, a friar, who decides to tell the stories of those who died in this accident in order to conclusively prove that God has a divine plan. What follows in a series of vignettes into the interconnected lives of these few in early 18th century. Originally published in 1927, this novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature the following year.
Through Brother Juniper’s research, we learn of the Marquesa de Montemayor and her companion Pepita. The Marquesa is a woman disconnected from her daughter through her daughter’s indifference and distance (her daughter marries and moves from Peru to Spain), and Pepita is an orphan who is taken in by the Marquesa but is still lonely and miserable. Being the 18th century, the only means of communication that the Marquesa has with her daughter is letter writing. So prolific and practiced is her writing that her letters become famous many years letter and are studied by school children. We also learn of Esteban, a young man desolate at his twin brother’s passing. Esteban was setting out to travel the world as a way to escape his depression and his brother’s death when the bridge collapsed. Finally, we learn of Uncle Pio and Don Jamie. Uncle Pio is a jack-of-all-trades who mentored a young singer and actress to be the greatest actress of her time (though no one knew this). When the actress retires from the stage, Uncle Pio convinces her to let him train her son, Don Jaime. The two are traveling back to Uncle Pio’s home when they are crossing the bridge.
Ultimately, I don’t think I liked this book. It was all rather boring. And maybe that is the point. These people that Brother Juniper researched were just run of the mill people. In the grand scheme of things, aren’t we all boring? And I know that I am bringing some 2020 conventions to my reading, but I was yearning for more cosmic connectedness between all the bridge-crossers. There was some connection between them, but I wanted more. I think too, that listening to this book as an audiobook was a mistake. The book was read by Sam Waterston and his voice is so recognizable that it kept taking my out of the story.
BINGO – The Roaring 20’s