I genuinely think I squealed with delight and did a happy dance in my chair at work when I received a review copy of Bridge of Clay from the Pan Macmillan/Picador team. I adored The Book Thief and The Messenger by Zusak, and despite the time passed since reading those two books (or indeed, his writing them!), I had little doubt that I’d love his newest release just as much.
Bridge of Clay follows snippets of the lives of the Dunbar Boys. Told by first-born Matthew, the story centres around softly-spoken Clay (the fourth son) who has a genuine heart of gold. We switch between the years after their mother passes away and their father leaves them, to the relatively happy years living as a family unit in the suburbs of Sydney.
Let me tell you about our brother.
The fourth Dunbar boy named Clay.
Everything happened to him.
We were all of us changed through him.
It took a bit of time to get used to the switching between time periods, but once I got the hang of it I struggled to put this book down. The genuine voice that Matthew lends to the book as a narrator was endearing, and made it feel like you were sitting down with him at the pub while he weaves his tale. Though be warned, as one of 5 boys he swears like a sailor…they all do. Zusak has mastered the art of narrative voice and Bridge of Clay is no less brilliant than those in his previous novels.
Having grown up in Sydney with two brothers, this book felt like it captured those stupid sibling fights you have, the heat that drives you to madness in the height of summer, and the way a cool change can turn your mindset. It’s a truly great work of Australian fiction.
Though the characters aren’t all lovable all the time, you love them anyway as you would a family. Through the book, we learn of things they’ve struggled with in their relatively short time on earth, and it’s easy to forgive the ‘who cares’ attitude and boldness they display. I also loved that we get flashbacks of Penny Dunbar’s escape from the Eastern Bloc and journey to Australia – she is such an interesting character and though she isn’t always physically present through scenes of the book, she is central to the story and you feel her off almost every page.
There are so many things I could mention that are fabulous about Bridge of Clay – the relationships, the courage of the boys, the captivating writing – but at the end of the day I will leave you with the thought that this book made me feel like I was part of the Dunbar family, it is superbly penned and the family’s past and present are simultaneously mundane and captivating, an everyday life turned extraordinary.
Rating: Though the size of this book is daunting, it was a great read. Lovers of Zusak need not be worried that this won’t live up to expectations!
AU Release Date: 09 October 2018
Are you a Markus Zusak fan? Or, who is a favourite Aussie author of yours?
Until next time,
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.