For those who have never read Markus Zusak, there are two universal truths about his writing: his magnificent prose and his ability to strike the core of human emotion. ‘Bridge of Clay’ strikes both of these notes with startling clarity. To say this is a story of a boy who builds a bridge is correct and yet wholly inadequate. It is a story of homecoming, of family, of breaking apart and finding a way back together.
Having read Zusak’s previous titles, The Book Thief and the Messenger, there was no doubt that Bridge of Clay was going to be a masterpiece of epic proportions but the magnitude of what awaited astounded me. Lurking in the past of the boy and his bridge is a deftly woven tale of love and loss, of how the Dunbar boys came to be and every moment is steeped in rich emotion, colourful descriptors and stark Australian humour. Amongst the fascinating brood of Dunbar brothers, Clay is his own enigma. He is a boy who trains diligently, knowing not what he trains for, only that the day is coming, who loves fiercely and brightly all the while harbouring a heartbreaking secret.
If you are wanting a happy ending, seek your rainbows and sunshine elsewhere. There are elements to this novel that are inevitable – you watch as they build before you, hurtling towards their fateful conclusion – whilst others will explode out of nowhere and tear you to shreds but overall it is a complexly bitter sweet resolution, as often is the case in life. This simple tale of a boy and a bridge and a mule (who was one of my favourite non-human characters) made me laugh and cry and cry and cry. Do yourself a favour and dive head first into the world of the Dunbar boys.
Review by Karen, Tweed Heads QBD