Literature+Fiction

Bridge of Clay By Markus Zusak

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I took way too long to complete Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak. The 600 odd page book was indeed a volume and it took me over a month to finally put it down. This is my second Zusak book. I loved the earlier Book Thief where the writing stole the show. However, Bridge of Clay failed to leave a similar mark.

Five boys in a house

At 18 Archer Street, in a quaint suburb of Sydney, live the five Dunbar boys. Existing without grown-ups around, they fight, love and learn. They live life on their own terms, grieving their mother’s death and angry at the sudden disappearance of their father Michael. As life goes on, a morning sees Michael walk back right into their lives with a strange request- to help him build a bridge over an overflowing river. None of the boys abide by the request, except for the fourth Dunbar boy Clay. The calm and collected teenager is willing to go that extra mile to accept the challenge of building a bridge. Clay harbor’s a long buried secret of his father’s disappearance. Metaphorically put by Zusak, the bridge that Clay must build is one that will save himself and his family. A tale of loss, hope, heartaches and pain, Bridge of clay is a complex web of emotions.

Zusak’s theatrical prose

He indeed has the ability to bring forth vivid descriptions. His words are laced with metaphors symbolizing more profound thoughts. Bridge of Clay is no exception and does come with its own share of eloquence. The characters are realistic, all with their human flaws intact. The emotion struck Michael, the anguish lying buried within Clay, the anger gnawing inside the other brothers- Zusak has managed to create a relatable picture of the Dunbar family and their lives.

Mixed Reaction

Starting on a really slow pace, it takes a while for the book to gain momentum. Though, one must not expect it to read like a gripping thriller. It does come with its share of suspense, all revealed in a rather sluggish manner. The writing did confuse me and the chapters alternating across timelines failed to keep me hooked. I found myself skimming through text and pages to just get hold of what’s actually going on. A few chapters laden with emotions did go fairly well, but I wasn’t really sniffing with a box of tissues by my side.

I must give it, yet again, to Zusak’s descriptions which was the saving grace of the book. It has a slow plot that isn’t all that riveting but it surely has a narrative loaded with vivid expressions. This is the the best possible way to sum up my mixed reactions. This book requires a whole lot of power to keep you hooked. It’s a volume in every way and the story just didn’t do anything for me.

A hit or a miss?

The book is a hit if all that matters to you is a prose that’s laced with metaphors and is expressive- despite it being written over 600 odd pages. If you possess a short attention span and prefer a book to get going at a steady pace with its plot, then you could give this a miss.

Bridge of Clay

The book is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format.

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13 Comments

  • Anonymous

    Excellent review! I really struggled with this challenging read! Just as I was tempted to set it aside I would read a beautiful expression….the unique, creative, and beautiful figurative language kept me reading. It was a sad and depressing story. I wonder how the YA target audience will react to this obscure and long work?

  • writershilpa

    WHen I read The Book Thief, I was hooked right from Page One! And, at the end, cried buckets…so much so, hubby asked what’s the matter!!! 🙂
    Based on your review, I guess, I will let this one go.. 600 pages is a bit too much for me and that too a slow narrative.
    I have some other books you recommended and will read those instead.
    Thanks for this awesome review, Ramya! And, I mean it! 😛

  • Shalzmojo

    I saw this book in Mumbai in a bookstore and was so tempted by it; thank god I didint. Actually I read the 2nd book Zusak has written and that was a HUGE let down for me espsically after the Book Thief! So I was wary of this one and am glad I listened to my instincts. Well analysed review as always Ramya though I can see the struggle to find praise for it!! 🙂

  • Shalzzz

    Ah, that’s really bad. I feel for it because of the cover and thank goodness, I didn’t buy it to satisfy my curiosity 😛 I haven’t read Book Thief (yeah, kill me now) but I hope to read it soon. Thanks for a fab review as always.

  • Obsessivemom

    Like I said I might pick this one up. I do love his metaphoric writing style though I agree it can get too philosophical and confusing at times. It seems like this one will need long summer holidays to be read in.

  • Soumya Prasad

    After ‘The Book Thief’ everyone’s expectations would have been sky-high from him and then he does that! So sad.

    I might not read this one as his previous book is one of the best books I’ve read my entire life and don’t want to taint his memory as a wonderful author.

  • Anshu Bhojnagarwala

    Ramya, I had already decided to read this book after my current, but after your review, I might need to revisit my decision. However, I had read The English Patient recently which was prose laced with metaphors, so again it might work for me. Let’s see. A lovely review indeed!

  • Lata Sunil

    Oh! I had such high hopes.. I read one of his interviews recently where he says exactly this. That the burden of the success of The Book Thief is too heavy and is hampering his writing. Maybe read his earlier books.

  • Rachna

    Oh that’s sad! It was a tall ask after The Book Thief and anything he would have written would have fallen short.
    But this book seems like a real disappointment.

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