15 October 2018

Review: Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

* 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 = ****

Carpe Librum!

Would you like to comment?

  1. I always feel a real hesitation to read a novel that is so complicated and confusing, even when people end up saying it's terrific. I have never read Markus before, so perhaps I'll take your advice and not begin with this one.

  2. Thanks Theresa. If you've never read Markus Zusak before I'd recommend starting with The Book Thief or my personal favourite, The Messenger. They are both memorable reads for me.

  3. It's been so long since The Book Thief, but I don't know if I want to read this one or not. I kind of want to but I also am I bit apprehensive about doing so.

  4. If you're not sure Marg, there's no need to rush into this one. Wait until it 'settles' and then decide. I think The Messenger is better anyway so perhaps if you want to read more of his work, read that for now. I don't like to let the popularity of a book convince me to read it, or get caught up in the hype. In fact, if a book is too hyped it can put me off. I resisted reading Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine but ended up absolutely adoring it when I read it after the hype wore off.

    Anyway, good luck with your decision making, it's hard to decide which books to pick up when there's sooooo much choice isn't it?


Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!