* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *
Bridge of Clay by bestselling author Markus Zusak finally hit the shelves this month and was easily the most highly anticipated book on my radar this year.
Fortunate enough to receive an advanced copy, I was shocked to find the first 100 pages or so were a slog. I just couldn't wrap my head around who was narrating. The story is told by an omniscient narrator who is actually one of the characters. How’s that even possible? My reading began to settle only once I'd figured this out and made my peace with the impossibility of it.
Clay - of the title - is one of five Dunbar boys, and the strength of the novel is definitely the rough and tumble relationship between these brothers. As a reader without a brother, I found their interactions touching, and the warmth of their family life in the three bedroom house on Archer street definitely shined through.
The novel also includes backstories of the Dunbar parents as well as several other characters, which jumped forward and back in time seemingly without order. These organic leaps in storytelling were confusing in the beginning, with the multitude of characters, snippets of stories, numerous timelines and the obvious point to a larger story arc. In fact, if I wasn't in the hands of Markus Zusak I may have given up at this point and put the novel aside. I'm glad I didn't, but this complex writing style may be an obstacle to new readers of his work.
There are unifying themes of love and family and overall this is a very moving story. The writing and dialogue are quintessentially Australian and the landscape was perfectly conveyed.
Ultimately, I still favour The Messenger as my favourite book by Markus Zusak, but that's okay. It was exciting to read Bridge of Clay, but after taking 10-13 years to bring this manuscript to fruition, I think the author has earned a well deserved break.
My rating = ****