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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blow the film, read the book
Comparisons of this book with the film based upon it are inevitable, given the film's world-wide fame and the book's relative obscurity. The best way to deal with this is to point out the differences between the pair of them, given that almost every one reading a review of the book will already have seen the film. In my view the novel is superb (I read it decades ago...
Published 23 months ago by J. Rottweiller Swinburne

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard going. Disappointing
My mother, a keen reader, was interested in reading the book because she enjoys the film. I warned her that the book was a translation from the original by a French author. The translation was simply not good enough to hold her interest. My mother knew survivors of the men who worked on the railway. She said it was obvious the author knew nothing of the reality as...
Published 4 months ago by Pinkangloirishcanuck


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blow the film, read the book, 26 Sep 2012
This review is from: The Bridge on the River Kwai (Paperback)
Comparisons of this book with the film based upon it are inevitable, given the film's world-wide fame and the book's relative obscurity. The best way to deal with this is to point out the differences between the pair of them, given that almost every one reading a review of the book will already have seen the film. In my view the novel is superb (I read it decades ago while still a schoolboy, and I can remember it well to this day). The plot is simple but engrossing, the story clearly told, the description faultless - the more so because it drew upon the real-life experiences of its author, who served with the Free French in Indo-China and so was putting his money where his mouth was, so to speak.

So, the differences:

1) The "Hero" of the film was an American, played by William Holden. In the book no Americans were featured. Presumably this was to give it a bigger audience in the States, but it still grates when you know that once again we have an example of the Americans behaving as if they won the War practically single-handed, with their grateful allies tagging submissively along behind. What makes it worse is that this was a British, not an American, production.

2) In the story there is a romantic sub-plot involving winsome local oriental girls and one of the young heroes of the force sent to blow up the bridge. There was no such thing in the book.

3) In the book the method of killing an ambushed sentry was graphically, and I don't doubt accurately, described (you crept up behind him and cut his throat). In the film this is fudged with relatively picturesque back-stabbing replacing the real thing.

4) The film ends on a comfortable note. The book doesn't.

As is so often the case, a superb book is filmed with scant regard to the source material and a contempt for its spirit (see my review of the film of James Salter's excellent book "The Hunters" for another example of this annoying fact of Hollywood film life - and Yes, I know that "Bridge" was supposed to be a British production, but it might as well have been made in Hollywood from the way it mauled the book. Hollywood clearly called the shots here).

I need hardly say that I regard the film as a travesty of one of the finest faction books to come out of WW2. Next time the film comes on, switch it off and read the book instead.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartrending, 25 Mar 2014
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I've never seen the film of this book (amazingly... but I don't watch much TV) but I can't imagine it's the same as the book (and from reading another review on here, it seems as if it isn't). This is an amazing story of fortitude and endurance in the face of something beyond enduring. It's also not just your average war story - it relates the story of Colonel Nicholson and his incredible pig-headed stubbornness in clinging to an ideal of honourable behaviour in captivity which must be peculiarly British. Told from the point of view of MO Clipton, Clipton watches as Nicholson's ridiculous protocols costs the lives of his men, and yet at the same time, somehow instils in them the belief that "they're still soldiers, not slaves" and this belief, in turn, is what saves them.

It's a strange dichotomy which is presented by the character of Nicholson. I kind of thought I knew the end of this just from hearing about the film - it ends explosively, right? I thought wrong... the book ends on a disturbing note and the whole story raises questions about the nature of the leaders in wartime; who's right or wrong; who could be trusted.

Boulle himself was a prisoner of the Japanese and helped construct this line so he knew what he was talking about. It is a heartrending story, made worst by the fact that it's true. Consider: "Sickness will not be considered a reason for exemption. A sick man can always make an effort. I'll build that bridge over the prisoners' dead bodies, if I have to." (p. 21) And they did. (I've got to be honest, this statement reminded me of my current employer - in times of austerity, they're just looking for an excuse to sack you - you daren't be ill - and if you are, you've just got to carry on. Oh yes, that call centre is being manned on the bones of dead employees...)

Something else I didn't know - Boulle wrote "Planet of the Apes" as well. (That one probably wasn't based on personal experience...)

This is an excellent read - can't recommend it enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb Story, 27 Jun 2013
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Pierre Boulle is best known for his commercially successful book Planet of the Apes which became a cult classic spurning cinematic adaptions and a TV series. As a story though this book is much better. The central character is a British POW named Colonel Nicholson, an intensely exasperating character who oversees his soldiers building a bridge over the river Kwai. Boulle recreates the sadistic brutality that the Japs were so renown for in the Second World War, no more so than in the prison camp commander,Colonel Saito, an irascible drunk. The reader will sometimes wonder whose side Colonel Nicholson is on, he puts the building of the bridge before the well being of his men, not intentionally but out of his odd character. As most readers know there is a film made after this book with Alec Guinness playing Colonel Nicholson, a very good screen adaption too but I always like to read the book first and see the film afterwards myself. All told this is an excellent book which provides a profound insight to what it was like to have been a Japanese POW.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Better than the film, 4 Jun 2014
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Loved it. Different to, and better than the film. Interestingly though, Alec Guinness got Colonel Nicholson absolutely perfectly. Certainly worth a read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Bridge on the River Kwai, 31 May 2014
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It has been many years since I first read this book. A good story, very well written, although younger readers may find the style a little different. Bear in mind it was written originally in french by a french author who understood the sufferings of prisoners of war taken in Singapore.
A good story.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Hard going. Disappointing, 18 April 2014
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This review is from: The Bridge on the River Kwai (Paperback)
My mother, a keen reader, was interested in reading the book because she enjoys the film. I warned her that the book was a translation from the original by a French author. The translation was simply not good enough to hold her interest. My mother knew survivors of the men who worked on the railway. She said it was obvious the author knew nothing of the reality as related to her.

A classic example where a fairly good film can be made from a somewhat flawed book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bridge on the River Kwai, 5 April 2014
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Full of facts and true to the concept, but a bit hard going at times, but still enjoyable and a good read
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5.0 out of 5 stars Christmas pressie, 18 Jun 2013
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This review is from: The Bridge on the River Kwai (Paperback)
This was a gift for my father last Christmas. The film has been a favourite of his since its release so it was nice to give the book as he is an avid reader. At 75 he may finally have gotton a Christmas gift he wanted.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Pierre Boulle - The Bridge on the River Kwai - "Suspense and sabotage behind the Jap lines", 14 Dec 2011
This review is from: The Bridge on the River Kwai (Paperback)
"The Bridge on the River Kwai tells most excitingly of sabotage behind the Japanese lines. It is also a magnificen satirical portrait of a British regular officer. In a prison camp deep in Siam, Colonel Nicholson, an officer and a gentleman of the old school, and his men are ordered by the Japanese to build a bridge. The Colonel refuses. Through weeks of torture and solitary confinement, he persists in upholding the military code that officers cannot be made to work with Other Ranks, until at last the Japanese give way. At once the Colonel is fire with a determination to show these orientals how superior the British are. He drives his men on until a magnificent new bridge stands for the first train from Saigon to Rangoon to pass it. It is the Colonel's hour.

Meanwhile in Calcutta the Special Branch has been active. Three men have been parachuted into Siam. They watch the bridge beign built and make their plans. The charges of dynamite are laid. As the train approaches, the youngest of the three is ready to press the button. But to reveal the climax would be unfair to the reader and to the author's superb mastery of suspense."

The short novel, largely famous as a result of the film of the same name, is about British prisoners of war and special forces in the Far East during the Second World War. The author was able to draw on his experiences serving alongside the British, as part of the Free French, on secret missions in Indo-china.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 25 July 2014
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This review is from: The Bridge on the River Kwai (Paperback)
Brilliant. It portrays the stiff upper lip of the British army.
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The Bridge on the River Kwai
The Bridge on the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle (Paperback - 5 Dec 2002)
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