Bridge of Clay by Marcus Zusak [3/10]

Much-hyped books rarely fall flat on their faces but the eagerly awaited “Bridge of Clay,” the follow-up to Marcus Zusak’s debut best seller, does just that. It’s a hefty tome classified on the Penguin website as “young adult” yet glossily marketed to the adult mass popular/literary market, with an accompanying narrative of heroic authorly struggle over a decade-plus. I came to it with excitement but quickly settled into the worst kind of reading experience, that of trudging drudgery. An ultra-thin and mawkish plot underpins the novel, that of five brothers rearing themselves after their mother’s death and father’s abandonment, with brother number four, the titled Clay, being the one to build the titled bridge (real and metaphorical) that unites them and their parents’ pasts. That plot should have sustained a novel a third the size. The jumping across timelines jars. Of all the characters, only Clay achieves any presence on the many pages, and I found the other four brothers drawn so cartoonishly that my eyes blurred at their dialogue. Zusak’s writing style is consciously weird and jagged and flowery, with only an occasional glimmer of grace. All in all, “Bridge of Clay” amounts to a lumbering shapeless blergh.

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