Reynje's Reviews > The Bridge

The Bridge by Jane Higgins
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's review
Jul 31, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: read-2011, young-adult, dystopia, cover-loving, australian
Read from August 07 to 11, 2011

3.5 stars

Why do you believe what you believe?

How much of the way you see the world is filtered through a lens built by your community, your education, the media?
‘We rode to war in a taxi-cab’.
This is the cracking opening line of The Bridge, an intensely thought-provoking novel that tackles head on the issues of war, propaganda, racism and class distinction, and the way political and religious ideology play into conflict.

The story follows Nik, a student at an elite Cityside school, who appears destined for a career with the Internal Security and Intelligence Services. Cityside and Southside are divided, literally by a river, but also by the ongoing war between the Citysiders and the ‘hostiles’ on the opposite side.

Then Nik’s school is bombed.

Hostiles are advancing into Cityside.

The little brother of Nik’s best friend is abducted.

We embark upon a journey across the river with Nik, discovering along with him that all in the world is not necessarily what it seems. Accompanied by his friend Fyffe, sister of the abducted boy Sol, Nik must walk into the heart of the place he has been raised to view as enemy territory, a place rife with desperation, squalor and inter-faction unrest.

What begins as an act of single-minded determination to locate and bring home Sol becomes a complex parallel journey of discovery, both in terms of Nik’s world view, and his sense of identity.

The Bridge is not a straightforward action novel. While the plot incorporates tense action scenes and doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to brutality and violence, it is a multi-layered book that delves quite deeply into moral and ethical questions.

Higgins has written insightfully about the effects of power and politics in an environment where information is controlled and forms part of the artillery of conflict. Race and social division are unflinchingly examined. The story hypothesises on the futility of war and the vicious circle of acts of retribution that are perpetuated by fear, prejudice and propaganda.

This was not always an easy book to read. Rather than consistently adrenalin-fuelled pacing, the story packs quite some ballast in the subtext and themes. There is an almost palpable weight to the book, and while thought-provoking and complex, I hesitate to say that this book will be equally engaging for all of its target audience.

Higgins’ characters are well-fleshed out and clearly realised, shaded with flaws, prejudices and varied motivations. We uncover information along with Nik as he narrates, and at the same time experience the spectrum of emotion he passes through, at times a brutal process as he deals with grief, anger and fear.

For me, the standout character was Fyffe. I really loved her. While she made some poorly considered, even reckless, decisions - I felt that Fyffe was motivated from a good place. She was truly brave in that she still chose to act in the face of her fear. In her group of highly intelligent, indoctrinated friends – Fyffe is the empath, driven to action through love and her great capacity for sympathy and connection.

It is this ability that also enables Fyffe to see people beyond their political alignment, race or background, in a socially divided world. The weight of her shared experience with Nik, their linked grief, makes their friendship especially poignant and gives it depth and meaning beyond its roots in family and school.

There is a lot going on in this book – it has some complex and important subject matter in its sights – and I feel that Higgins' prose and plotting was tight and considered. For these factors, The Bridge is well worth attention and merit.

On an entirely personal level, however, I didn’t feel overwhelmingly connected to the story and the characters in an emotional way – which is basically the litmus test on which I base the majority of my ratings. Had I felt more strongly invested, I may have found the story more… gripping. As it happened, although I read it fairly quickly, my commitment waxed and waned. I guess, simply speaking, I didn’t feel as compelled as I thought I would. (To be fair here, I did find the latter part of the book very intense and it had good momentum and some moments of face-punching impact).

To sum up the heart of the story - I’ll paraphrase one of the characters:

Peace without justice, or peace without mercy. Which would you choose?

The trailer is amazing
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Reading Progress

08/07/2011 page 36
10.0% 2 comments
08/08/2011 page 84
23.0% 1 comment
08/09/2011 page 158
44.0% "I keep picking this up, reading a few pages, then putting it down. I don't know whether its the book, or if I'm in a strange reading funk, or whether I just want to keep looking at the cover.." 4 comments
08/10/2011 page 284
78.0% "Okay, now I just want to give Nik a hug."
08/10/2011 page 297
82.0% "!!! O_o !!!" 4 comments
09/17/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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Nomes i am really looking forward to this one. text publishing publish amazing books (a lot of my faves)

message 2: by Nic (new) - added it

Nic I just ordered this last night :) The trailer is awesome:)

Reynje Picking up my copy this afternoon.. can't wait.

message 4: by Emily (new)

Emily I'm excited for this one! Can't wait to see what you all think.

Reynje Me too :) The cover is gorgeous, up close. I'll probably read this next..

Nomes oh i am really liking the way you wrote this review (reads like a professional)

and i love the para about your "litmus test" for ratings. i am very much the same <3

(i will hopefully read this one soon ~ when my copy arrives)

Reynje Thanks so much Nomes! (view spoiler)

I think I came to a realisation about what makes something 5 stars for me.. it's more about the emotional connection I feel to a book. So I'm at peace with my rating system now :)

Nomes i am in awe fo how well written your review is O.o

lately i feel like i have been slapping up any old review (or, not reviewing at all and just chatting in the comments and awarding stars)

my star system is personal too. and pretty much reflects my emotional connection/enjoyment of a book. not necessarily a books merit as a piece of literary work :D

Reynje I was talking to my brother about how hard it was to write this, and he says: "Just fill it with quotes." :| Not. Helpful. ha ha

I love your chatty reviews :) You give a really good sense of *why* you liked something - and I like that in a review rather than just critical analysis :) And I get a better idea of whether I'll actually like it as well..

Also, I'm probably going to post something really babbly and gushing and incoherent next :D Trying to rein myself in and self-edit, but we'll see..

message 10: by Brooke (new) - added it

Brooke Reynje wrote: "I was talking to my brother about how hard it was to write this, and he says: "Just fill it with quotes." :| Not. Helpful. ha ha"

Haha, aw. That makes me feel a tad lame about the way I wrote my review of Shatter Me :oP

I agree with Nomes though, great review! Wow. Definitely considering this one more now :)

Reynje No no!! Don't feel lame Brooke! Quotes are great (especially when they're amazing quotes) - he was just suggesting that I not bother to write any of my thoughts at all :)

To be honest - I tried hard to be diplomatic in this review because I think it's a good book. But I didn't really... love it.

And thanks, Brooke!

message 12: by Limonessa (new)

Limonessa Can I memorize ALL of your reviews? Something should stick... :D

Shirley Marr Powerful review Rey. I love how the tone of your reviews changes to suit the tone of the book, whether it be sombre here, lighthearted over there or fun and flirty elsewhere ;-)

Reynje Lisa, I hang around GR in the hopes I'll soak up some review skills from my talented friends by osmosis :D

Thank you Shirley! (view spoiler)

Reynje Chris wrote: "I hope you don't mind this:"

Hi Chris - glad you enjoyed the review :)

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