“If The Book Thief was a novel that allowed Death to steal the show… [its] brilliantly illuminated follow-up is affirmatively full of life.”


Bridge of Clay is the story of the Dunbars, Michael and Penelope and their five sons, told by the oldest, Matthew. Well, that sounds dull, doesn’t it? But this is such an overwhelmingly insightful novel, so beautifully written with pathos, humour and love that it is as far from dull as it could be. The loves, the losses (heartbreaking at times), the anger, the hanging on, the resolution, the absolution…and all without any sickly sentimentality.

I loved Zusak’s The Book Thief for his non-patronising understanding and recounting of a difficult subject. Bridge of Clay has that same empathetic assuredness. The writing is that of Matthew but the perspective is from all, collectively and individually…even the mule. The story runs backwards and forwards and sideways, always revealing a little more of the hows and whys of the now. A quarter of the way through I literally lost the plot and had to start again but then I hardly put it down. I feel I know every character, they are so heartbreakingly real. The intimate detail is perfectly told and no observation is throwaway…all is important and will stay with me for a very long time.

This book was long time coming and is a masterpiece…I don’t say that lightly. Part of me wishes I had not read it so I still had it to read.

I think if a Dunbar boy has got your back then all is well…you really do have to love them.


Reviewed by:

Rebecca Masterman

Added 2nd July 2020