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Bridge of Clay

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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?

464 pages, Hardcover

First published October 8, 2018

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About the author

Markus Zusak

25 books38.1k followers
Markus Zusak is the author of five books, including the international bestseller, The Book Thief , which spent more than a decade on the New York Times bestseller list, and is translated into more than forty languages – establishing Zusak as one of the most successful authors to come out of Australia.

To date, Zusak has held the number one position at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, the New York Times bestseller list, as well as in countries across South America, Europe and Asia.

His books, The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, When Dogs Cry (also titled Getting the Girl ), The Messenger (or I am the Messenger ) and The Book Thief have been awarded numerous honours ranging from literary prizes to readers choice awards to prizes voted on by booksellers.

Zusak’s much-anticipated new novel, Bridge of Clay , is set for release in October 2018 in the USA, the UK and Australia, with foreign translations to follow.

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5 stars
12,571 (32%)
4 stars
12,309 (32%)
3 stars
8,427 (21%)
2 stars
3,409 (8%)
1 star
1,595 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,473 reviews
Profile Image for jessica.
2,505 reviews30.8k followers
January 23, 2021
this book is still so tragically underrated. sigh.


when i die and they open me up, they will see this story engraved on my heart.

the manner in which this story has impacted me - by inhaling in the broken letters scattered among the pages, causing them to slowly seep into my veins, prompting my heart to start quietly beating for a boy who built a bridge - is not something that can be written in a review. it is something that demands to be felt, imprinting itself right across my heart.

so im pretty sure that even an infinite combination of words will spectacularly fail in describing what this story means to me, because it has been nearly 12 hours since i finished reading this and i still am at a loss at how to convey the heartbreaking beauty of this book.

but i do think its worth mentioning that zusak goes back to his roots with this story. its very reminiscent of his first work, the wolfe brothers series. so i think those who only know MZ via ‘the book thief’ will be in for a small shock. its still the same poignant and brilliant writing, but this story is messy and complicated and raw. its quite a departure from his last novel, but i think thats exactly what we needed. i can feel every ounce of tears, hope, frustration, dedication, doubt, and love zusak has felt this past decade, in every single page. so i also think this is the story he needed for himself.

it tackles topics like how to make a home with those who surround you, what it truly takes to extend forgiveness, that family means those you love and who love you in return, the overwhelming grief of losing someone who is simply extraordinary, the shy but steady feelings that can only belong to a first love, and most importantly, the unwavering and unbreakable bond between brothers.

all of these things happen to a boy name clay - this is his story. and although this book is told by his brother, it is still a story about ‘the fourth dunbar brother. and how everything happened to him. and because of that, we were all of us changed through him.’

and so when i die and they open me up, and they see this story engraved on my heart, they will know how a boy named clay changed me, too.

every star in the galaxy
Profile Image for Natalie.
157 reviews43 followers
Want to read
December 29, 2018
Markus Zusak could write the iTunes User Terms of Agreement and I'd still read it. so yeah, pretty excited for this one!

EDIT omg people stop liking this please i can't believe i keep getting notifications for this review i wrote in HIGH SCHOOL (for context I'm getting my BA next month [also: i've been on this website for more than 6 years?? time is fake]) i mean i guess i'm glad you're all happy this book is finally coming out lol but the original statement in this review no longer stands because i read I Am The Messenger after writing this and it was AWFUL sorry
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,943 reviews291k followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
October 31, 2018
DNF - 30%

This is the first time in a while that I've actually not finished a book. I should mention that I was one of the few people who liked but didn't love The Book Thief, but I find it hard to believe that Bridge of Clay will be as well-loved as that book. More power to you if you can actually finish and enjoy it.

At times it felt like Zusak deliberately went out of his way to make the story more confusing and difficult to enjoy. It's a painfully cerebral metaphorical wandering through the lives of five Australian brothers - Matthew, Rory, Henry, Thomas & Clay. The prose is full of the kind of bloated overwritten description that doesn't quite make sense.
Inside, the house was oven-like.
The furniture all was roasted.
The pictures just out of the toaster.
They had an air conditioner. It was broken.

There's some Homerian aspects, too, the most obvious of which being the boys' mule Achilles, but there are allusions to Homer's work throughout.

I'm not going to go on too much in this review, especially as I didn't finish it. I noticed some readers saying it took a while to get going so I pushed through, but I think 170 pages should be more than enough for a book to grab me.

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Profile Image for Jesse (JesseTheReader).
468 reviews164k followers
October 31, 2020
I completely see why so many people have such mixed feelings about this book. It's one that isn't very plot based and often times can kind of feel up in the air in terms of where the story is going. I'm still sitting with my thoughts trying to figure out how I feel. I liked how focused it was on the characters and there was a moment where I completely felt wrecked by something that occurred. Unfortunately though, I wanted more from the plot and I felt like things just kept getting unnecessarily dragged out. It felt like a story that kept getting tangled up in nonsense and wasn't ever untangled. I wanted to love it, but ended up feeling mixed about it as a whole. (still processing though so this could change lol)
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,155 reviews2,006 followers
July 30, 2019
First of all I must say reading this book is hard work. It is a history of a family presented like a patchwork quilt - a bit here and a bit there, jumping around from person to person, place to place and past to present. Concentration is the key.

Hard work does pay off however and this is a really beautiful book. As the story progresses Zusak's characters start to work their way into your heart and the pages just slip past as you begin to discover just what has occurred. Little things like why the clothes pegs mean so much to Clay all become clear by the end. Tissues are required - there are several very sad moments.

But there are also lots of fun times as you would expect in a household of five boys. I loved Achilles the mule who felt that he too should live in the house, and there is a wonderful neighbour who comes by to fix them up when they have been fighting. Which is often.

This is a book about relationships and about love. I finished it yesterday and it is still buzzing around in my head. That is a sure sign of a good book.
Profile Image for Federico DN.
304 reviews539 followers
June 9, 2022
It's always about love isn't it? Everyone feels it, nobody truly understands it.

In this novel we learn the story of 'Clay Dunbar', the silent one, the boy with too much heart. One of five misfit brothers, the tireless unstoppable runner, an immovable force of nature. Training beyond meaning, relentlessly, unbeknown, and yet also aware, of a fateful day to come. The day of reckoning.

Before the Bridge, there was a Clay and a Carey.
Before the Murderer, there was a Michael and a Penelope; and an Abbey.
Two generations scarred by love, and tragedy.
A crazy idea unites them. The construction of an arched bridge.
The lifetime masterpiece of a murderer, and a boy with limitless heart.

A truly remarkable read. You only have to get past the first part of the book, which is an utter mess of near incomprehensible writing. But if you somehow manage to survive it, you then find a non-stop endless stream of terribly endearing moments. Beyond beautiful, beyond painful. I pretty much bookmarked every single page. Still, my all-time favorite is 'The Messenger', by far. But THIS ONE. This one is really something else. And 'The Book Thief' of course, literary awesomeness. Zusak never disappoints. Well, almost never.

PERSONAL NOTE : I apologize for the long delay between reviews, my mother broke her hip so I've been caring for her 24/7, which naturally took a nice toll on my reading time. Also must say I've been going through a gamer phase. Sadly, reading is but one of my many vices, which include but is not limited to, reading, gaming and movieing. So you can expect from me a ton of reviewing followed by weeks or months of complete silence from time to time, as I go through my different phases. I'm hoping to go through a reading phase again soon enough. Furthermore, I sort of promised myself not to read anything else until I was done with this effing book, which gave me one of my worst reading slumps ever. Not to mention, I sort of seem to have lost my desire to write. So, yeah, taking everything into consideration, it all contributed to create the perfect non-reading storm. Missed you all! Hope to be back soon :D!
[2018] [464p] [Young Adult] [Recommendable] [Awesome] [Unlimited Bookmarks] [Clay&Carey] [Zusak rocks]

Siempre se trata del amor no? Todos lo sienten, nadie en verdad lo entiende.

En esta novela conocemos la historia de 'Clay Dunbar', el silencioso, el chico con demasiado corazón. Uno de cinco hermanos inadaptados, el corredor incansable, imparable, una inmovible fuerza de la naturaleza. Entrenando fuera de cualquier sentido, sin descanso, desconociendo, y de alguna manera consciente, de un fatídico día por llegar. El día de ajustar cuentas.

Antes del Puente, había un Clay y una Carey.
Antes del Asesino, había un Michael y una Penelope; y una Abbey.
Dos generaciones marcadas por el amor, y la tragedia.
Una idea descabellada los une. La construcción de un puente arqueado.
La pieza maestra de la vida de un asesino, y de un chico con corazón ilimitado.

Una lectura realmente destacable. Sólo hay que pasar la primera parte del libro, que es un desastre total de casi incomprensible escritura. Pero si de alguna manera lográs sobrevivirlo, encontrás después un imparable manantial de infinitos y terriblemente entrañables momentos. Más allá de hermoso, más allá de doloroso. Podría decir que resalté casi cada una de sus páginas. Igual, mi favorito de todos los tiempos sigue siendo 'Cartas Cruzadas', por lejos. Pero ESTO. Este libro es realmente algo aparte. Y por supuesto 'La Ladrona de Libros'. genialidad literaria. Zusak nunca decepciona. Bueno, casi nunca.

[2018] [464p] [Joven Adulto] [Recomendable] [Fantástico] [Marcadores Ilimitados] [Clay&Carey] [Zusak la rompe]
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
602 reviews87.2k followers
November 12, 2018
DNF @ 80%

I am so so SO sad about this but, I just had no interest in the story or the characters. I tried the audiobook because it's narrated by the author and I gave it a fair go but I just wasn't into it. I kept telling myself I should at least finish it but I found my attention wandering because I just wanted it to be done, and that's just a waste of precious reading (listening) time. I will definitely try and physically read this and see if maybe that experience will be better but, I really don't know. I'm very disappointed about this but, it just wasn't for me. The writing was beautiful, he really is an incredibly talented author, the story just didn't do anything for me.
Profile Image for Kylie D.
464 reviews505 followers
August 16, 2019
Well, what can I say about this book? I found it totally mesmerising! It took a while to get going, but suddenly you find you can't put it down!

It follows the lives of the five Dunbar boys, told from the point of view of the eldest Matthew, but it concentrates on the fourth boy Clay. After their mother dies and their father abandons them, the boys are left to raise themselves in the suburbs of Sydney. Markus Zusak tells a remarkable tale here, the bridge of the title being both physical and symbolical. The timeline does jump around a bit, but this doesn't really detract from the story.

It also touches on horse racing, and having an interest in the Sydney racing scene it was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me. I did laugh at the racehorse called Engadine (yes Markus and I share the same hometown, though I don't personally know him!)

All in all, Bridge Of Clay is a wonderful, riveting book, and I have no hesitation in recommending it.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,398 reviews9,520 followers
January 4, 2019
UPDATE: $1.99 on Kindle US today 1/4/19

Well heck, I never did show my stained edge copy I got. Oh well, later!

I won an arc copy of this book in a pub giveaway!

I was really confused in this book, more so in the beginning until I got used to how this was being written. The Bridge Of Clay is a book I will have to revisit time and again to get all of the tidbits that we miss at times. Especially in a book like this; family, sorrow, hope, change, love, death. It's life. It's death. It's a family both past and present. It's something I can't put into words, I just feel it.

Happy Reading!

Mel 🖤🐺🐾
Profile Image for Tilly Booth.
181 reviews944 followers
September 20, 2018
*deep breath* I'm ready to write this review.

Markus Zusak is my all time favourite author and with Bridge of Clay he has just solidified that position further. I fell in love with his writing in The Book Thief and then The Messenger and now with Bridge of Clay. I always tell people that going into his book, don't expect them to be anything alike (except for extraordinary writing) because they are all so individual and different from each other, it's actually kind of amazing.

Bridge of Clay is a book based around family and heartbreak. It's very much a character driven book and although you're thrown into this story, right into a house with five brothers and given a tonne of information, you just need to buckle up your seatbelt and keep going. I struggled with the first 50 pages or so and then suddenly it was 3 am and I was sobbing and my eyes were red and puffy. I myself have a big family and I could related to these characters because in all of them, I could see my own family. And the characters in this are perfect. These well thought out, flawed, realistic, Australian, funny, unique, brave characters came to life on the pages. They went beyond just being a character written in a book, Zusak gave them life.

The writing. I don't need to say much. It's fucking amazing.

There will be tears in this book. Bring tissues.

I have a customer that comes into work every Thursday. His name is Doug and we bonded over Markus Zusak and over the last eight months we've become really great friends. I lent him copy of this book to read and he left little notes throughout it and it's a copy I will treasure forever. And soon we're going to go and meet Markus Zusak at a book event and we're so excited. These books have changed my life and they've also introduced wonderful people to me too.

I loved it so much.
Profile Image for Hamad.
989 reviews1,300 followers
October 22, 2018
“A murderer should probably do many things, but he should never, under any circumstances, come home.”

🌟 After 11 or 12 years of waiting, you’d think that the author will write the next big thing. Unfortunately he wrote the next big disappointment and I fell from this Bridge of Clay into a sea of disappointment!


🌟 Truth to be told, I wasn’t very interested in the synopsis but October was my Contemporary month and what is better to read than a novel by the highly acclaimed author of The Book Thief aka one of my favorite books!

🌟 I like when Authors move along their past works and try to bring something new. I think Zusak both did and didn’t do that and let me explain. He wrote a totally different story that is unrelated to his previously successful books and that’s the good thing. The bad thing is that he was trying so hard to make it sound poetical and whimsical but it ended up being over the top!

🌟 I liked the magical writing in The Book Thief but the voice of this story was not appropriate for a story of this kind and he used metaphor very much which ended up being annoying. I knew that the writing is just not for me after a few chapters and Hala who BR this with me felt the same and decided to DNF it immediately.

🌟 The characters were unrelatable for me and I didn’t like any of them. I even ended up skim reading the last 50 pages as I wasn’t interested anymore.

🌟 Summary: This is a Hit or miss kind of books (Apparently a miss for me) which had a bad combination of characters, writing and plot. If you start this and feel that you ned to DNF it then I encourage doing so because it is not for everyone and if you enjoy it then good for you :D.

🌟 Prescription: I can’t seem to recommend this for anyone in the time being. If you want a better story about 5 brothers which is more relatable and has great writing then I recommend Watching Glass Shatter by James Cudney!

A BR with Hala
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,256 reviews2,940 followers
October 8, 2018
The only thing worse than not liking a book is knowing you are probably in the minority with that opinion. I'm left with a feeling of what did I miss? The plot is good but I just could never get into the writing style. I'll go sit in my corner alone now while everyone else has an amazing reading experience. This just wasn't the right book for me but I do hope others enjoy it.

I won a free copy of this book in a giveaway but was under no obligation to post a review.
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
682 reviews1,045 followers
August 29, 2020
3.5 ⭐️

“We can’t do anything. One of us writes, and one of us reads. We can’t do anything but me tell it, and you see it.”

Ok, so this is a very slow read. It definitely didn’t need to be 570 pages.
It also flicks between timelines every chapter, which for me made it hard to follow and therefore less enjoyable.

It is the story of Clay, the fourth Dunbar brother - being told by Matthew, the oldest. It covers first love, abandonment, death and many other powerful topics.

There were times this book really spoke to me, but then would follow a really long chapter focused on horse racing and I felt my attention waning.

Overall it was enjoyable but definitely too long.


The library is back open and I am so happy!
Profile Image for Danielle.
790 reviews387 followers
November 24, 2020
I’ve had this book on my to be read shelf for a really long time. I feel like this is a book you either love or hate. I just didn’t get it. The plot is appealing and something I think I should like. 🧐 But the story itself is painfully slow and all over the place. I couldn’t latch onto any character. 🙁 It is incredibly long winded and I guess I just couldn’t connect with the writing style. This was a disappointing read for me. 😬
Profile Image for Allyce Cameron.
368 reviews19 followers
July 27, 2018
Je-sus Christ. What a book. For anyone who was worried about this following up on that masterpiece The Book Thief, don’t be. It is amazing and beautiful and heart wrenching and a million other things that I can’t think of right now because I’m so overwhelmed. The first 50 pages or so were a bit confusing and hard to follow but once I got past that I was completely sucked in. Also a word of warning, find a nice private place for the ending, I read this on a plane and it pretty sure the man next to me thought I was having some kind of breakdown I was sobbing so hard. Highly highly recommend. This is my favourite book of 2018 so far.
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,392 reviews799 followers
September 9, 2022
“Many considered us tearaways.
Mostly they were right:
Our mother was dead.
Our father had fled.

We swore like bastards, fought like contenders, and punished each other at pool, at table tennis (always on third- or fourth-hand tables, and often set up on the lumpy grass of the backyard), at Monopoly, darts, football, cards, at everything we could get our hands on.”

Zusak basically walks you up the steps of a houseful of boys with little introduction. He also designs the physical pages of the book with a particular pattern and flow which lead you into the story.

Matthew Dunbar opens the story a few pages earlier than this quotation, telling us he’s punching away on the old TW (typewriter), which was owned by his grandmother, but of course we don’t know who he is or who is grandmother is.

He is writing the story of his family from his own point of view (when he’s part of the action), but from an author’s (or omniscient narrator’s) point of view in all the scenes that took place before he was born or that were between other characters. I found it always easy to distinguish, and it made me feel he was acting as the family historian to whom everyone had entrusted their innermost thoughts.

The part that’s tricky is the walking up the steps and facing this lively mob of boys who are without adult supervision, and all we know is that the parents are absent. This is a tried-and-true coming of age device that appeals to young readers – having kids ‘abandoned’ and on their own – but it doesn’t last long. Matthew assumes the adult role and we meet the real adults soon enough.

Still, we really don’t know why there’s a mule in the kitchen, who it is they refer to all the time as “The Murderer” (or why), and why someone has gone to all the trouble to go back to someone else’s backyard to dig up bones and a snakeskin and – wait for it – the old TW, wrapped in plastic.

Five brothers: Matthew, Rory, Henry, Clay, Tommy. Each with a different personality and part to play, although Tommy is so little he features mostly as a “training weight” for Clay to carry up staircases and hills to build his strength. And Rory was born roaring and is anxious to fight anyone at the drop of a hat – or even at the slight fluttering of a hat - and his job is to tackle Clay to slow him down as he runs. Huh? Interesting training regime.

As Zusak weaves his way back and forth, we grow to love and understand the young people who became the boys’ parents and grandparents (as well as the one who got away). They don’t have much, but their back fence is the other side of a practice course and racetrack, so there’s still some open ground in the area, especially at The Surrounds, “a sculpture garden.”

“He woke up in the biggest bedroom in the city.
For Clay, it was perfect, another strange but sacred site: it was a bed, in a field, with the ignition of dawn and distant rooftops; or, more accurately an old mattress, lying faded in the earth. . . in the field behind our house. . . All that remained was an emptiness – a giant, uneven paddock, and a sculpture garden of household waste: Troubled televisions. Battered washing machines. Catapulted microwaves. One enduring mattress.”

I love Markus Zusak’s characters, especially these boys. Like Tim Winton, he seems to capture that wonderful mix of innocence and hope with the life-changing reality of tragedy and despair they can’t escape. Things happen that would bring the best of us undone.

These boys fight each other fiercely, but when a Dunbar boy is attacked by bullies, watch out.

“Clay knew how to hurt them. He had one or two of most things, but also a thousand elbows.”

Books and reading figure strongly with the boys, who love the stories of the classics, especially the Odyssey and ancient history. Clay begs to hear his mother’s stories, often just family anecdotes, and he seems a little simple at first. Only at first. There’s a lot more to him. He does become the bridge in the family even as he helps to physically build a real bridge with stone arches and all.

Wonderful writing, and truly, it all does come together somehow, but I understand some readers don’t let it wash over them long enough for it to soak in. The writing alone is enough to keep me going.

“In those days, too, I remind myself, our parents were something else.
Sure, they fought sometimes, they argued.
There was the odd suburban thunderbolt, but they were mostly those people who’d found each other; they were golden and bright-lit and funny. Often they seemed in cahoots somehow, like jailbirds who wouldn’t leave; they loved us, they liked us, and that was a pretty good trick. After all, take five boys, put them in one small house, and see what it looks and sounds like: it’s a porridge of mess and fighting.”

What parent hasn’t either enjoyed, or wished they could enjoy, being in cahoots with another adult when there’s a roomful of kids?

I finished reading this a little while ago, and I'm still living with this family. The going back and forth in time explains each character’s strengths or flaws after we’ve met them, and after all, isn't that how we would meet them if we walked up those steps?


Thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK for the preview copy, and special thanks to Markus Zusak for bringing the Dunbar boys to life.

2022: I just ran across John Boyne's review of this in the Irish Times, and I'm sure other readers will enjoy it, too.
Profile Image for Warda.
1,121 reviews17.7k followers
Shelved as 'lost-interest'
January 14, 2019
Put down for now. I’m not connecting with the story and I’m not in the right frame of mind for it either, since it’s such a slow book and requires more concentration and effort which I can’t give right now.


Buddy-reading with Sophie! ❤
Please be good! I cannot survive if this disappoints me.


About fuckin time!!! SO HAPPY ABOUT THIS NEWS! And it sounds beautifully heart-wrenching.
Profile Image for Brenda.
4,021 reviews2,622 followers
October 9, 2018
Five Dunbar boys, the eldest was Matthew (who narrated the story), the fourth was Clay, who seemed to be the most sensitive and socially aware. The youngest was Tommy with Henry and Rory somewhere in between. They lived at 18 Archer Street in the suburbs of Sydney, where Matthew took over the job of caring for his brothers after their mother died and six months later their father left without a word. Their struggles were many, their ways of grieving all different.

Bridge of Clay tells of tragedy and loss; of heartache and hope; and insecurities, not just in the five boys but in their father as well. Clay would be the one to build a bridge – but was it a bricks and mortar bridge, or a metaphorical bridge?

As we learn of life before the five Dunbar boys were born; of Michael’s early life, and Penny’s as well, we get to know their individual likes and dislikes; their hopes for the future. It was Penny who said she’d like five children, but Michael who said, let them not all be boys!

I struggled initially with Bridge of Clay – the writing confused me, and I couldn’t get into the flow of the story. I put it aside for a few days, then picked it up again today. Straight away I was into the lives of the Dunbar boys, and couldn’t put it down, and although it jumps around, it’s easy to catch the links. The publisher’s words best sum it up – “Here is a story told inside out and back to front.” Aussie author Markus Zusak has had Bridge of Clay coming for our reading pleasure for some years now – I’m glad it’s finally here. Recommended. (make sure you have tissues at the ready!)

With thanks to Pan Macmillan AU and Picador for my uncorrected proof ARC to read in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 5 books13.5k followers
Want to read
November 21, 2018
That only took, like, a lot of fucking time. But we have a release date.
Profile Image for mimi (taylor’s version).
297 reviews166 followers
December 13, 2022
The Dunbar boys.
Five - between kids and young adults - who have challenged death.
The mother was taken away. The father became The Killer.
And this is the story of an epic journey that will bring them exactly where they already were.

Reading this book it's not only a roller coaster of emotions, but it's also understandable that Markus Zusak loves to write a story focused on one of the saddest and most unfair endings you'll ever read, just to write a thousand pages more.
But while in other books you could have read the book in one sitting - with some effort -, here the journey of the Dunbar boys is also the journey of the reader, who has to convince himself to keep going at least five times only in the first half.
It was tough, and I thought of quitting every single day, but the only way to put together the pieces of the puzzle is to arrive at the half, and then you are too far to come back.

As I could notice, the narration was a problem for many. If you open an English grammar book on morphology and syntax you could use this story as an example. But I’m now convinced it was all part of the author’s evil plan.
If you can connect with the narration, you will feel every possible emotion.

It's a weird feeling, to like a story but not knowing when you started to like it. I remember crying at the beginning, being confused by the endless flashbacks, wondering if it’ll ever end, getting angry, and then I was crying closing the book.
So there’s not much more I can say. There isn't a regular plot with things happening and people dying.

There is a family, and then there are five Dunbar boys with too many animals for a house that little. There is chaos and love. Someone will run away and someone will stay.
A Dunbar boy could do many things, but he should always be sure to come home at the end.
And he did.
They all did.

4 stars
Profile Image for Emily B.
424 reviews417 followers
June 8, 2021
I didn’t love it. It was okay and I can see that it is a well written book,

I found the whole horse racing aspect of it a bit boring but liked the painting and mythology themes.

The author refers to lots of things, such as the peg in Clays pocket, but doesn’t fully explain until the end. I found this happening too often and became frustrated with it. It almost seemed like it was trying too hard to be mysterious and profound.
Profile Image for Yusra  ✨.
249 reviews512 followers
July 17, 2019
Yes, I know I just finished reading this last night but I can't get it out of my head! I tried reading another book and just missed Zusak's writing so here I am again. and I have a feeling I'll understand and appreciate the story a LOT more this time. here goes!!

So I’m sitting here, it’s 1am, and I don’t even have words.
Markus Zusak did something that I had lost all hope for.
He made me cry, real tears, while reading a book.
And what a book that was. What a book.
I’m an emotional mess right now and have no words.
Profile Image for Renee Godding.
582 reviews556 followers
October 11, 2021
Rating: 5/5 stars
Added to All-time Favourite List

"She turned the knob to a shadowed dimness and sat on the stool at the piano. Slowly, her hands drifted, and genly, she pressed the high-pitched notes. She hit them soft but true and right, where she'd used the paint left over.
She's played the keys of Y|E|S|."

I am a bit particular when it comes to the books that make it onto my all-time favourite list... Call it what you want (fear of commitment, being critical, or just being annoyingly picky), it takes a lot out of me to declare a book a new favourite. Often times, a book sits with me for months, working its way into my heart, and then there is the rare case of love at first sight. Such a case was The Book Thiefby Markus Zusak, and now I can add another one of his titles to that list.
I fell, and I fell hard, and before I knew it I had played those keys of |Y|E|S|, even before I’d reached the final page.
|Y|E|S|, this book is going to (personally) hit me hard.
|Y|E|S|, I’m ready for it.
|Y|E|S|, permission to enter my heart.

Of Hero’s and Murderers
Bridge of Clay is a hard book to summarize. It’s the story of the fourth Dunbar boy, about a house filled with Greek hero’s, piano music and playfights, a murderer and a mule. About running as fast as you can (but never fast enough), about the gaping hole of loss, and eventually building a bridge across it. But above all else, it’s a generational story about a family. As with both I Am the Messenger and The Book Thief, the description on the backflap does not give an in depth idea of what these books are about, and in my opinion this is for the better. I go into them fairly blind and trust Markus Zusak to work his magic on me, and he does time and time again.

The Old TW
If you’re familiar with Markus Zusak’s writing style, you will instantly know what I mean when I say that it’s both unique, and probably hit or miss for most people. It’s magical, yet down to earth, filled with metaphors like you’ve never heard, but still make perfect sense once you read them. Despite being so skilful, his writing seems effortless, resulting in a pleasant reading experience. I’ve seen many reviewers mention how they had to work hard to get through the book, yet I had the opposite experience, thanks to the writing. Although Bridge of Clay is little like Zusaks earlier books, they are connected through the authors signature style. If, like me, that was what you liked most in The Book Thief, you cannot pass this up!

A Gradual Kill
Not only is Markus Zusak an artist with his words, he is also highly skilled when it comes to delivering emotional pay-off. These are no emotional bombs he drops on you out of the blue. These are precision strikes, timed blows, a gradual killing… Throughout the story, we meet different generations of Dunbar boys, starting with father Michael as a teenager, all the way to his fourth son Clay at the same age. Over the span of years, we grow to know them, almost as friends. We learn their backstory, their personality, and what leads them towards everything that happens in the end.
I ended up loving every single one of these characters: Matthew: the protector, Rory: the fighter, Henry: the charmer, Clay: the runner and, Tommy: the boy with his legion of animals. I even fell in love with the murderer, with Penny, and everything they go through.
It’s this gradual build up that leads to the emotional pay-off as they proceed towards the tragedy you know is coming. That terrible feeling where you know something awful is bound to happen, and there is nothing you can do, so you just don’t want to deny it for a little bit longer... It’s the feeling the characters feel, and thanks to Zusaks brilliant set up, you feel it with them.

The Bridge
The best thing about Bridge of Clay isn’t however, how it makes the reader feel: it’s how Zusak translates to the page how the Dunbar boys feel. The story deals heavily with themes of grief, both before ánd after a loss, and hits the nail on the head with two aspects that are often under- or mis-represented in literature: male-grief and in particular teenage boy-grief. Although everybody of course is different, whether it be due to innate differences or societal expectations, most boys tend to grieve differently from girls, especially around their teenage years. Outwardly, there is more doing, less talking and more unspoken feelings, that can lead to distance. Bridging that distance between people, between “before” and “after”, memories and what is to come. That is one of the hardest parts of grief, and it’s something Bridge of Clay captures beautifully.

Due to its themes and content, this book may not resonate with everybody. That being said; I think you’d be doing yourself a great disservice by not at least giving it a try, whether you liked The Book Thief or not. As for me: a final note from the author: am haunted by Markus Zusak…
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,007 reviews354 followers
February 14, 2020
O ♥️ também Lê

“Se antes do começo (enfim, do começo escrito) houve uma máquina de escrever, uma cadela e uma cobra, então no começo propriamente dito — onze anos antes — houve um assassino, uma mula e o Clay”

“Avançando alguns passos, o Assassino ficou a olhar.
Portanto, ao que parecia, o grupo estava completo.
Um gato, um pássaro, um peixinho-dourado e um assassino.
Além da mula na cozinha, claro.
Uma pandilha que não metia medo a ninguém.”

“Permitam pois, que vos conte a respeito do nosso irmão... aquele que se chama Clay.
Foi a ele que tudo aconteceu. E o que lhe aconteceu transformou-nos a todos.”

Na forma, Zusak tem uma escrita peculiar e muito sua, que nem sempre agrada a todos! No conteúdo, as histórias que nos conta, extravasam sentimento, e, essas sim, tocam-nos a quase... quase... todos 😍

Estranhem, mas rogo-vos que persistam e entranhem!
Menos que para pensar, “Nada menos que um Milagre” é uma história para sentir! É um daqueles livros para ler com o coração 💖 💓💖

P.S.: Pela parte que me toca, devo dizer-vos que considero a escrita metafórica de Zusak nada menos que magnetizante. Por exemplo, só ele é capaz de nos surpreender com um sorriso capaz de pingar sacanice (“Um sorriso que escorria sacanice. Chegava a pingá-la”). Arrepiante, hein?! 😉 Só espero nunca ser alvo dalgum! 😉🥰👍
Profile Image for hayden.
1,063 reviews733 followers
October 29, 2018
okay, i've read it.

what a disappointment. i loved the book thief, as did most people who have read it (even though i read it later than most), and expected something similarly powerful here. instead, i got an overly-long, self-indulgent, emotionally-void collection of pages.

from the beginning, the prose was very heightened and odd, full of strange, colory metaphors that had less an effect for me of adding anything substantial than of inundating me. i'd go through and pick out a well-seasoned section to quote, but it's so consistent that, honestly, pick up the book, flip to a random page, and start reading the first scene you find. it's bound to be filled with strange, overbaked prose. i think what markus was going for was taking a slightly conventional story about loss (at least in terms of the main plot) and presenting it in a new way, but i don't think he succeeded in that mission.

it took 300 pages for me to care, even slightly, about any of the brothers. we're thrown in to the action after it's already happened; we watch them flounder around and figure out how to exist without their parents without having any of the setup that would make their floundering mean anything. rather, the setup comes later. we're told about their parents' lives (the parts of the book i took interest in) slowly, the early sections of the book alternating between the brothers' present and their past. we're told about clay's relationship with a neighbor girl without any setup, without anything to give the scenes emotional resonance. it doesn't help that the book is incredibly long; by the time i reached the end, i didn't give a care about the bridge or why it was being built or what it meant in a metaphorical sense. i was just tired, and i wanted to be done.

• • •

OK, markus, this sounds amazing and all, and i understand that you wrote the book thief, but REALLY? 26 dollars? for a YA book?

edit: guess who left target 20 dollars poorer

Profile Image for Carolyn.
2,123 reviews604 followers
January 4, 2019
This is a marvelous, rollicking tale of the five Dunbar boys, abandoned by their father after their mother died and now living alone in the family home with an assortment of animals. Told through the eyes of the oldest brother Matthew it mostly focuses on his younger brother, Clay and his exploits. The book is a little difficult to get into at first (and I did have to read the first chapter twice to get the rhythm of the writing) as it jumps around in time and many things don't have a significance until later. But trust me you will grow to love the characters (and Achilles the mule) and it will all fit together before the end to make a spellbinding and beautiful, poignant tale of family love.

With thanks to Netgalley and Random House for a digital copy to read
Profile Image for ♛ may.
805 reviews3,775 followers
February 11, 2019
uhhhh what just happened?

you know that one book that makes zero sense 99% of the time and then you read one line and it all hits you and you're like WOW THIS IS AN INCREDIBLY CRAFTED MASTERPIECE?

yeah,,,,,that's not this book

- so this extremely extremely character driven book is about the dunbar family and basically it just follows their entire life from the father and mother to their five sons till the ~end~ and like that's that on that
- there are times when you //think// you know what's going on bc a reference to something has been made and then it'll take a whole different turn and you'll be dropped off at Confusion Avenue
- i feel like this could have been a really well written book if we were just given some structure but it just felt so disorganized and haphazard and i couldnt grasp at anything at all
- and guys, this is a book big. i listened to it (narrated by the author himself, which i thought was pretty cool) but it was 14 HOURS LONG
- imagine listening to 14 hours of a book that makes no sense = my life for the past week
- i am the sad face emoji bc the book thief was such an incredible book and this is a mess
- i'm REALLY big on books with themes of family and while that was the MAIN topic of the book, i couldn't even connect with the boys (i'll admit some parts were funny but they were too few and far between) bc THE WRITING WAS ALL OVER THE PLACE

i'm only giving it a 1.5 rating bc the ending made me emo and i kinda love penelope
Profile Image for Umut.
355 reviews164 followers
October 4, 2018
Finally we met with Zusak's new book after Book Thief. He's taken his time, but it was totally worth the wait! Bridge of Clay is about 5 brothers who live alone. Their mother died, and father left. They live in suburbs of Sydney alone. The story is told from the eldest brother's perspective, Matthew. But, the star of the book is Clay, the fourth boy, who is trying to build this bridge. The bridge is physical and symbolic. It takes you 50 pages to get into the book. Suddenly we're thrown into it not knowing who is who, and what's going on. But, be patient, because after you get the hang of it, we're in Zusak's magical world.
His writing is just so rich. He has his own style, and I can appreciate it's not for everyone, but there's no doubt he's very skilful. He has his long descriptions, choppy sentences, clever metaphors. It's not usual, but still captivating. It makes you somehow curious to keep going.
It's a character driven book. Before you know it, you start to feel and care for this family. It's very different than what I grew up in, so it took me some time to adjust to the dynamics of a 5 brothers, big family. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading about them and felt for them.
All in all, this book was a very unique journey. I loved it. I gave it 4 stars because of the hard start, and some parts of the book that were too slow (like the horse racing part).

Thanks a lot to NetGalley and the Publisher for granting a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Veronica ⭐️.
948 reviews189 followers
February 1, 2019
Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak was ten years in the making so I was expecting big things from this story and I wasn’t disappointed.

The story opens with Matthew, the oldest Dunbar boy, bringing home the old TW, the typewriter of a Grandmother they never knew.

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.

This is Clay’s story as told by Matthew in an omniscient point of view. Whilst Matthew insists this is Clay’s story it is in fact a story of the Dunbar family and how they came to be. This is Penelope Lesciuszko’s story, Michael Dunbar’s story and also their combined story with the lead up of what was to come and what it is now; a family of ramshackle tragedy.

Zusak’s short sentences read like poetry and you often need to stop and take in the meaning behind the words.

Both parents were readers, for their mother it was The Iliad and the Odyssey, for their father it was the Quarryman. The books are mentioned often and have great significance in the parents’ lives and that of the Dunbar boys. They were also great storytellers passing down to the boys not only their love of books but the stories of their own lives.

As much as you would think a story of five boys bringing themselves up would be rambunctious and unruly it is in fact tender, loving and intimate. That’s not to say the boys don’t bicker, fight and sometimes drink too much.

The story jumps around in time however the authors phrasing at the start of each new chapter makes it easy to tell exactly where you are in time.

This is a story of love, heartbreak, togetherness, family, despair, life, death, forgiveness and reconciliation. A family saga without all the unnecessary words.

I cried all the way through the second half of the book. Some 300 pages read through blurry tear filled eyes. Maybe being the mother of four sons brought a deeper connection. A felt I knew these boys and all their different personalities.

I think I’ve just read my best book of 2019. I’m not sure anything can top Bridge of Clay. Even before I’d finished the book I wanted to go back and read all those beautiful words again.
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