Like many of you our LBF team is apart at the moment. Our weekly book club is not only designed to bring us together through our shared love of books but also connect us with the greater online publishing community. In addition to our weekly online book club discussion, we’ll be writing a book review for every title. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak is up next. This book was chosen and adored by Megan Browne, our Conference Coordinator. Enjoy.
Review of Markus Zusak’s Bridge of Clay by Megan Browne
If you are familiar with The Book Thief then it will come as no surprise that Death lingers within the pages of Markus Zusak’s 2018 novel, Bridge of Clay. However, this story takes the reader far away from Nazi-led Germany, the setting of its predecessor, and into sun-baked New South Wales. It is a novel brimming with life, brotherhood, love and loss in equal measures.
At the book’s open, the five Dunbar boys – Matthew, Rory, Henry, Clay and Tommy – live alone but for their menagerie of pets (including Achilles the mule and Agamemnon the goldfish). Narrated by the eldest Dunbar boy, Matthew, Bridge of Clay unfolds the lives of these brothers after the cataclysmic return of their absent father – nicknamed ‘The Murderer’. Through the stories of their parents, and their younger selves both before and immediately after the loss of their mother, we learn to love and loathe each Dunbar boy equally. They are all starkly different but entirely whole and endearingly loyal to their ‘us-against-the-world’ mentality… excluding Clay, the inexplicable.
Bridge of Clay is, unsurprisingly, Clay’s story and explores the significance of that bridge between our own actions and the perceptions of those closest to us. Within the narrative, Matthew records Clay’s account of tragedies that were entirely private from his brothers. I found the narrator’s subsequent conflict and positioning of the reader fascinating in a way that I have only experienced once before. In The Book Thief, of course.
I adored this book. It is desperately sad and paints many faces of grief, but it also delights in family, resilience and trusting those who love us best to still love us at the worst of times. It is a story about boys and brothers, sons and mothers, fathers and bridges… and one very stubborn mule.