The Bridge of Clay

The Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

“Us Dunbar boys.
From oldest to youngest:
Me, Rory, Henry, Clayton, Thomas.
We would never be the same…I should tell you what we were like:
Many considered us tearaways.
Mostly they were right:
Our mother was dead
Our father had fled” (14-15).

I was afraid to read this novel. Zusak’s novel “The Book Thief” is one that is close to my heart. I have read thousands of books in my lifetime and “The Book Thief” is definitely on my top ten. I believed there was no way he could write anything better and if he did, and I read it, I’d be bitterly disappointed. But “The bridge of Clay” was this month’s book club pick, and seeing how I am the founding member I felt it my duty to read. So, 6 days before we met I set out to read 500+ pages of a book, I was very apprehensive about reading.
And I was disappointed ….
For the first 80 pages but then, I couldn’t help but become enchanted with the Dunbar family. It started slowly and at first, I was annoyed with Matthew’s (our narrator’s) storytelling. Matthew, it seemed to me, had no sense of direction, and I didn’t really understand his intentions. However, it was when Penelope’s story started that I became more invested in the story. Penelope is a woman who has a plethora of stories to tell. Her escape from Stalinist Austria ultimately led her to Australia. A journey numerous in tales. (one favourite of her sons being the size of the cockroaches she encountered in the refugee camp when she first arrived at her new country.
The Dunbar boys loved their mother. And after her death, it is Matthew that takes it upon himself to become the story tell in the family. The entire novel, therefore, is Matthew’s story of his family in which he plays particular homage to his brother Clay (you will understand whey Clay is the focus when you read the book).
The novel is beautifully written. As a reader, you have to be prepared to take the time to “sip” the prose. You cannot read it quickly or to do so you will miss subtle clues integral in understanding character motivation.
Zusak’s writes fiction as a poet. You have to be patient enough to wait for the accumulation of points of conflict to resolve themselves, often in ways that will break your heart.

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