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100 Greatest Novels: The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Howards End, & Go Tell It on the Mountain

07 Oct

Well, we keep trucking along. Getting closer to the halfway mark.

200px-BridgeOfSanLuisReyThe Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

This book is really small. My copy was 117 pages. With that in mind, you wouldn’t think Wilder could put in so much emotion in to so few pages. In the 1700s, an old Incan rope bridge in Peru collapses. Five people were on the bridge when it collapses and the rest of the book gives us short histories of each person and how they came to be on the bridge. With the book being so short and fitting in the histories of five different people, I didn’t expect to get emotionally attached to anybody. Well, that was a wrong assumption. But ultimately, the books is about love. The last sentence:

There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.

Howards_EndHowards End by E. M. Forster

For fans of BBC’s Downton Abbey, this novel follows three families and their connections to an old family home named Howards End. Set at the turn of the century, this is another novel about English aristocracy and how they relate to each other, poorer people, and their possessions.

What sets this novel apart is the characters (two main characters are children of German immigrants instead of the normal British heritage) and Howards End, the home that takes on as important a rule as any character. More of the novel actually takes place in London instead of at the home but the home still affects the actions and reactions of multiple characters.

200px-GoTellItOnTheMountainGo Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Written in the 1950s, this semi-autobiographical novel is set in New York during the early 20th century. The novel follows John, a 14-year-old African American, and his life living with a strict father who’s a deacon at a charismatic church. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn about the history of John’s family members. Starting back in the south, the novel follows each character as they deal with hardships, move to the north, and find God.

What makes this novel difficult to read is seeing the characters use their faith in God to punish themselves. Every little bad mishap is proof that they are living in sin and that God is punishing them. Children need sin beat out of them. Adults need to be shunned because of their life of sin. Only one character can see the truth. And all this creates an intense and sometimes difficult novel.

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Getting into the 40s on the list of the 100 greatest novels, next is The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene.

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