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