Published by Picador Australia on October 9, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, General
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Let me tell you about our brother.
The fourth Dunbar boy named Clay.
Everything happened to him.
We were all of us changed through him.
The Dunbar boys bring each other up in a house run by their own rules. A family of ramshackle tragedy - their mother is dead, their father has fled - they love and fight, and learn to reckon with the adult world.
It is Clay, the quiet one, who will build a bridge; for his family, for his past, for his sins. He builds a bridge to transcend humanness. To survive.
A miracle and nothing less.
Markus Zusak makes his long-awaited return with a profoundly heartfelt and inventive novel about a family held together by stories, and a young life caught in the current: a boy in search of greatness, as a cure for a painful past.
I feel like I’ve been waiting forever for a new Markus Zusak book and Bridge of Clay does not disappoint. It has the same beautiful, metaphoric writing as The Book Thief, though the story and plot is anything but the same. Bridge of Clay is a story about five brothers, “the Dunbar boys”, and their parents Penny and Michael. It is set in Sydney and has that quintessential slow Aussie summer feel (even though the story spans across many years) that most Aussies will be able to relate to.
Bridge of Clay is a story about family, grief and love. It’s a story about relationships and bonds, and finding your place in the world, especially when faced with difficult situations. I have to admit that it took me a little while to get into the plot and understand what was happening. At the heart of the story is Clayton Dunbar, and his determination to build a bridge… and it took me a long time to figure out what was really going on. And it wasn’t until I started writing this review that I understood the metaphor of the bridge. What added to the confusion was that there were multiple timelines, following the Dunbar boys in the future, the Dunbar boys while growing up, the Dunbar boys after their mother had died and their father had left them, the Dunbar boys after their father had reappeared, Penelope Dunbar while she was growing up in Europe, and Michael Dunbar growing up in Australia. It took me a few chapters to figure out the timelines properly, and it was difficult because a lot of the chapters were quite short and we were switching between timelines so often. But once I’d gotten into the book, I became engrossed in the story.
Bridge of Clay is by no means a fast-paced and plot-driven novel that will grab you, but it is a quietly captivating story that will have you caring very deeply for its characters. It’s an exploration of the love between brothers and the revival of dead relationships. The story is narrated by the eldest Dunbar boy, Matthew, but revolves around Clay, and it’s so evident how much love there is between them and how much home means to them. The other characters, while receiving less attention, also play a large role in the story. There’s the tough but secretly gentle Rory, the Playboy magazine loving Henry, and Tommy who loves animals and has a collection of pets including a tabby cat, a border collie, a pigeon, a goldfish, and a mule. I’m not quite sure how else to describe the plot of this book besides it being a beautiful depiction of a distinctly Australian family, their little quirks and their struggles (I’m still trying to collect my thoughts and recover from all of the raw emotions so this review is all over the place). The fact that it was set in Sydney made the story even more familiar to me and I highly highly enjoyed it.
I listened to the audiobook and I’m so glad that I did. While it was confusing to follow the timelines at the start, Markus Zusak does such a wonderful job of narrating, and the passion and love really came through to me as a listener. You could hear him as a narrator choking up in the final lines of the book and that made the experience all the sweeter.
I don’t know that Bridge of Clay will be a novel for everyone but the beautiful, poetic writing that is full of heart and passion will captivate all those that read it.
Rating: 4 out of 5