Doubleday Books October 2018 (hardback)
IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS ONE MURDERER, ONE MULE AND ONE BOY.
BUT THIS ISN’T THE BEGINNING, IT’S BEFORE IT.
Five Dunbar brothers are living – fighting, loving, grieving – in the perfect chaos of a house without grown-ups. Today, the father who left them has just walked right back in. He has a surprising request: who will build a bridge with him?
It is Clay, a boy tormented by a long-buried secret, who accepts. But why is Clay so broken? And why must he fulfil this extraordinary challenge?
Bridge of Clay is about a boy caught in a current, a boy intent on destroying everything he has in order to become everything he needs to be. Ahead of him lies the bridge, the vision that will save both his family and himself.
It will be a miracle and nothing less.
At once an existential riddle and a search for redemption, this tale of five brothers coming of age in a house without rules brims with energy, joy and pathos. Written in Markus Zusak’s distinctive style, it is a tour de force from a master storyteller of the heart.
Confession time, I purchased this book in hardback shortly after publication, bagging myself a signed copy no less! However mixed reviews and the size of the book meant it spent a significant amount of time sat on my shelf. Determined to read it, I have committed to it the past couple of months.
The writing took some time to get used and to I note in the description, reference to Zusak’s distinctive writing, I have only read The Book Thief and while that was distinctive, this felt different distinctive. Almost poetically written I found I had to relax into the book and ‘go with’ the story rather than paying too much attention to specific words or sentences which weren’t always easily decipherable, although as the book progressed I did get used to it. That sounds worse than it is because what followed was a sensitive and mesmerising story.
This is the story of the five Dunbar brothers, a cohesive group who at times border on feral, a family torn apart by grief. The fourth boy, Clay is our hero a quiet enigmatic soul, in love with the girl next door (well, across the road), who herself is pursuing a career in horseracing.
Clay is a runner, he could be successful but these boys have a destructive streak and his running becomes a form of abuse, or punishment perhaps and as the story progresses we begin to understand what for.
This is a mighty book, difficult to sum up but I found it to be an incredible, absorbing and moving read. The story of the Dunbar boys, their parents, their loves and their losses. It is the story of their survival as boys fighting and loving each other in a way only brothers can. As with The Book Thief, death is ever present, but this time not telling the story. This is a great read, an epic read and as Clay goes with his father to build the bridge, it is a story of forgiveness and survival, a tale of moving on and letting things go. And as Clay crosses that bridge, from past to future I defy the reader not to shed a tear and to finish this book, holding a small piece of Clay in their heart.
About the Author
Markus Zusak is the bestselling author of six novels, including The Book Thief. His books have been translated into more than forty languages, to both popular and critical acclaim. He lives in Sydney with his wife and two children.