Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak
October 9, 2018, from Doubleday
Young adult literary fiction
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The breathtaking story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. As the Dunbar boys love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world, they discover the moving secret behind their father’s disappearance.
At the center of the Dunbar family is Clay, a boy who will build a bridge—for his family, for his past, for greatness, for his sins, for a miracle.
The question is, how far is Clay willing to go? And how much can he overcome?
Markus Zusak’s last book, The Book Thief, is one of my favourite books of all time. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting out of Bridge of Clay, but unfortunately, I was woefully disappointed by this book; other than the gorgeous writing, there was very little in it that I liked. I was bored, and disconnected, and confused throughout the entire book, which is not something I wanted to be.
Foremost in my reasoning is the fact that this book just feels so splintered and disorganized. It jumps around in its timeline so much I couldn’t figure out what was happening when. It reads intentionally vague, intentionally metaphorical, but there’s such a thing as too much figurative language and this book slammed through that wall for me.
The book is focused on Clay, the fourth-youngest Dunbar brother, who goes with his father to build a bridge. In reality the whole family and anyone who has connections gets several chapters in the spotlight: the boys’ mother, Penny Dunbar; their father, Michael Dunbar; and Clay’s friend Carey and her parents. I honestly would have preferred to read a book focusing only on Penny’s life, because that was really the only part I felt interested in, and she was the only character felt developed; otherwise, I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. Everyone just seemed so shallow and underveloped, because everything was so scattered.
Then there’s Zusak’s writing style, which I have very mixed feelings about in this book. Zusak’s writing is incredibly gorgeous and imaginative, stuffed with figurative language and metaphors. It’s whimsical and gives everything a dreamlike, otherworldly quality. This worked incredible in The Book Thief, because it was narrated by an otherworldly being. Bridge of Clay, which is narrated by a everyday man in his late twenties, has a completely different feeling to the story that means Zusak’s style works poorly with the characters and plot. In other words, I feel like the whimsical writing was being prioritized above every other aspect of the book.
f you liked The Book Thief for its writing and its love of words, I suppose this book might be worth checking out. I do feel bad, in a way; I’d been waiting for this book for years, and The Book Thief is a hell of a book to follow, but regardless of who wrote it, I ultimately can’t recommend Bridge of Clay.
content warnings | parental death, cancer, eating disorder talk
have you read bridge of clay or the book thief??
5 thoughts on “Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak | a fractured book with gorgeous writing”
So glad to find someone else who didn’t like this book. Great review Jess!!
Thanks! Yeah, I was quite disappointed
I’m one of the few people who hated the book thief! But yet I’m super curious to read this! I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you though. Always sucks when you don’t love a book by am author that you for sure thought was your jam
It’d be interesting to hear your thoughts if you ever do read this. And yeah, I really hoped that this would be good for me but it wasn’t, and it kind of sucks, but onto better books!