Book Review: Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

I stared at a blank document for what felt like ages before actually typing out half a sentence. And then I deleted it before writing something again. And the cycle repeated for quite a while before this came out. This isn’t creative at all, I know. But this is what happens when you expect great things from one of your favorite authors and he immensely disappoints you to no end.

As everyone who’s been following me on BookTube and Bookstagram knows, I fell in love with Markus Zusak’s writing after reading The Book Thief. That book still gives me the chills and makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry. It is because of The Book Thief that I was so goddamn excited about Bridge of Clay when it released. There wasn’t a minute when I didn’t covet that book and when I finally got it, I would sit and stare at it for what felt like ages.

I wanted to not have so many expectations before I started reading it. It served me right, though, and it taught me something that I’ve found over and over again before but probably haven’t been able to implement properly: Never go into a book with too many expectations, even if it is by your favorite author. A book has the power to disappoint you as much as it has the power to positively overwhelm you.

When you start reading Bridge of Clay, you’ll go like, “Ohh this is going to be deep” and all that. But whatever happened to Markus Zusak’s writing? What went wrong? What did I ever do to invite such wrath? Did I jinx it with all my fawning over his work that this one seemed like an unnecessary, repetitive family drama to me? WHAT HAPPENED? I WANT TO KNOW!

Bridge of Clay is the story of the Dunbar brothers, whose mother has died and whose father left them on their own after their mother’s death. While the five brothers are living on their own terms, one of them, Clay, has his own reasons for who he is. He trains vigorously and the narrative says that the moment he goes to help his father build a bridge on the river Amahnu – special to Michael and Penny Dunbar, the parents – the other brothers understand why he’s been training. Which makes no sense to me in the larger picture. I’ll tell you why once I’m done talking about the story.

The story has different tracks – Penny’s childhood, Michael’s childhood, his first love, how these two meet, their life together, and what is taken out of each of them once they are told a debilitating truth. These merge together to form, what the author thinks, is a coherent and poignant storyline.

But no. That’s really not what it is.

Yes, in quite a few places, there are glimpses of Zusak’s brilliance that made me fall in love with his writing as I read The Book Thief. But otherwise, the narrative was circuitous and repetitive, and both are things that are I absolutely detest in books. There was a point to the emotions, but despite all of it, I found it to be quite pointless in the end. And this is like the oxymorons that the author repeatedly mentions in the book.

Whatever was the point of the story? Why did it take 579 pages to say something in a poetic prose that just wanted to fill the pages? I feel really bad saying all of this, but disappointment can make people talk the heads off of others. Or an alternate explanation is that maybe it was just me. My brain probably didn’t process the story the way the author intended it to. And that’s another thing that happens with favorite authors – you just don’t want to come to terms with the fact that you didn’t like one of their books.

But all in all, I’m just thankful that I read The Book Thief first, because if I hadn’t, then I’d not have understood the full capability and strength of Markus Zusak’s writing. Bridge of Clay is nowhere near that level. There’s so much left to be desired in this one, that I could feel my heart break to find how not heartbreaking this book is. Does this sentence make sense? It does to me and I realize it sounds like I am a proper masochist, asking for tears and heartbreak. But I like my books to affect me that much and I really don’t mind crying at all.

That’s beside the point, however!

I really, really wanted to give this one a 3 stars. But in hindsight, I find that 2.5 would suffice. But those little flashes of Zusak brilliance in there are stopping me from cruelly steamrolling this book (feels like I have already) and I’m settling for a 2.75/5.

AAAAAAARGGGGHHHH! THIS IS THE WORST FEELING IN THE WORLD!!

Rating: 2.75/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Amazon India

If you’d like to buy this book after reading my review, please do so by clicking my Amazon Affiliate link given below. The price remains the same for you but I get a small commission off of every purchase you make.

Here’s the link: Bridge of Clay

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