Markus Zusak is best known for The Book Thief which was a publishing phenomenon selling more than 16 million copies worldwide and it was also made into a movie. Bridge of Clay is about the Dunbar boys who bring each other up in a house run by their own rules after their mother dies and their father abandons them. A coming of age story, the brothers love, and they fight, learning to reckon with the adult world.
Matthew narrates the book, observing his parents and four brothers: Rory, Henry, Clayton and Thomas. But it is son number four, Clay, who drives this book, and it is Clay, who will build a bridge. A real bridge with the father who abandoned them. A metaphorical bridge between father and his sons. The reason for building this bridge? You will need to read the book to find out, but it’s for himself, it’s for his family, it’s to atone for the past, and it’s to survive.
It’s almost impossible to write a review of this book without giving the story away, so expect to understand the meaning in time of the old Remington typewriter buried in the backyard, the family’s unusual collection of pets, and Clay’s obsession with clothes pegs.
Bridge of Clay is a masterpiece. The crafting of this story that goes back and forth in time and gently reveals the backstory to this family is superb. It’s a book you can reread just for the quality of the writing, but Markus has also written a book that explores the messy and beautiful humanity of the Dunbar family – a novel that is filled with violence and pain, but also so much love and compassion.
Markus Zusak worked on Bridge of Clay for 13 years, long before the fame of The Book Thief. He wanted to explore the concept that Clay is ‘building a bridge to transcend human-ness’. Bridge of Clay is a book to read slowly and savour – it is an exceptional read.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan
Macmillan, RRP $37.99