2018 Reviews · a-z author challenge 2018 · Australian · contemporary fiction

Book Review: Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

Title: Bridge of Claymarkus zusak

Author: Markus Zusak

Published: October 9th 2018

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Pages: 592

Genres:  Fiction, Contemporary, Australian

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 4 stars

Let me tell you about our brother.
The fourth Dunbar boy named Clay.
Everything happened to him.
We were all of us changed through him.

The Dunbar boys bring each other up in a house run by their own rules. A family of ramshackle tragedy – their mother is dead, their father has fled – they love and fight, and learn to reckon with the adult world.

It is Clay, the quiet one, who will build a bridge; for his family, for his past, for his sins. He builds a bridge to transcend humanness. To survive.

A miracle and nothing less.

Markus Zusak makes his long-awaited return with a profoundly heartfelt and inventive novel about a family held together by stories, and a young life caught in the current: a boy in search of greatness, as a cure for a painful past.


On the 9th October 2018, the most anticipated book of the decade finally made its debut. Bridge of Clay, written by worldwide literary sensation Markus Zusak of The Book Thief fame, made its entrance into the world. Bridge of Clay is a book over 12 years in the making, it is ambitious, well crafted and poignant. It makes you work hard, but the end result will leave you changed and in awe of Zusak’s natural command of the written word.

Bridge of Clay is a book with an incredibly strong beating heart. The blood that runs through this book are the Dunbar boys.  When the patriarch and matriarch of the family leave the Dunbar boys, it is up to the family left behind to pick up the pieces and help to return to some sort of order.  As the boys learn to negotiate the adult world, one brother stands above the others. Clay Dunbar is the peacemaker, he helps to build a bridge. This bridge has many connotations, but most of all it will help to bring together a family fractured by mistakes, pain and loss.

I felt very fortunate to receive an advanced readers copy of Bridge of Clay from the publisher, Pan MacmillanIn late November, I attended an evening with Markus Zusak here in Perth, where I was able to get my copy of Bridge of Clay personally signed. Listening to Markus Zusak discuss his writing approach and the book itself was enlightening. It definitely added an extra layer to my reading experience. It helped me to understand just what Zusak intended for this book and the painstaking journey to finally bring it to publication.

I will say straight up that this book made me work hard. As an avid bookworm, I strive  to push myself further with the books I select to read. Bridge of Clay is going down as one book that challenged me and pushed me outside the realms of my reading existence. I recommend that you do set a good block of uninterrupted reading time aside for Bridge of Clay. This perhaps explains my own delay in reading this book almost three months after its official release. I personally chose to save it for the school holidays, where I had plenty of time and a clear head to devote to this tender novel. Bridge of Clay is a challenging, perplexing and enlightening read nonetheless. The structure of this book is something else and put simply, I have not encountered a book like this one before. Time and place converge. The book is epic and expansive, but somehow there is the inherent feeling that every single word expressed on the pages of Bridge of Clay must count for something, if not everything in the overall picture of events.

Once you settle in to Zusak’s prose, which is sparse but also sprawling, you will feel a sense of accomplishment. Every single sentence has been carefully plucked and placed on the page. Zusak is quite the task master, making the reader feel like they have an active role in deciding which moments in the book count and connect to the overall message of the book. I was able to pull quite a lot from Bridge of Clay theme wise. It is a coming of age tale, a family saga, a testament to brotherly love, a crisis point story and one of reconnection, as well as forgiveness.  Each character knows their place in the novel, which is down to the delicate sculpting work of Markus Zusak.

There are plenty of highs, lows, memorable and fleeting moments in Bridge of Clay. Relationships, family, love and romance all have a part to play in the proceedings of the novel. In some ways it could be said that Bridge of Clay is a sketch of family life, particularly of a family under duress. The Dunbars must rise above the challenges thrown at them. The experiences of the Dunbars reminds us of the valuable support system the family unit has to offer and the precarious, as well as cruel nature of life.

Although the book focuses on Clay, one of the Dunbar boys, the book is narrated by Matthew, the eldest child of the Dunbars. I enjoyed this introspective form of narration, it worked well. Whilst I was inside Matthew’s head, I did feel like I got to know the father and mother figures of the tale, along with some significant outer players.

For those who are literary enthusiasts, you will appreciate the literature insertions in Bridge of Clay. Even the animals featured in the book have names inspired by the writing of Homer. I just adored Achilles! I confess to personally only encountering the work of Homer in my high school literature course and I have not revisited his writing since. However, the undercurrent and presentation of the work of this great writer is used to full effect by Marcus Zusak. The same can also be said about the other art references in the book too. I also appreciated the bridge references, which links to the moving title choice of this book. The bridge connotations give us a good overall picture of the book and the direction it travels in, as well as its final resting place.

It is a mighty journey and an uphill climb to take on board Bridge of Clay by world-renowned writer Markus Zusak. Comparisons will inevitably be made to his famous novel, The Book Thief, but my best advice to you as a potential reader of Bridge of Clay is to go into this book cold and appreciate it for all it is worth.

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak was published on 9th October 2018 by Pan Macmillan. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Bridge of Clay, Markus Zusak, visit here.

*Thanks extended to Pan Macmillan for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.

*Book ‘Z’ of the a-z author challenge 2018


3 thoughts on “Book Review: Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

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