Bridge of Clay

Bridge of Clay
Markus Zusak
Picador 2018


As a fan of Markus Zusak’s previous work (The Book Thief, The Messenger, and When Dogs Cry) there was no doubt in my mind I’d love Bridge of Clay when I read it. Yet Bridge of Clay raised a number of questions about the book and the evolution of Zusak’s prose style. For me, this book was a change from his others by the sheer literary feeling of the writing. If you’re unsure what I mean by “literary”, perhaps the simplest way to describe it is writing that screams writing. The first page caught me off guard, but it didn’t take long to appreciate the style and story.

If I weren’t a fan of Zusak—or if I’d read the blurb before I jumped in—this is definitely a book I would seek out and read. I am one of six children and so I’ve always been fascinated by large families in fiction and on screen (Cheaper by the Dozen, Septimus Heap, etc.). Seeing someone portray the lives of five brothers is fascinating to me. A lot of these moments and interactions just felt truly authentic and familiar. Although, my family was never quite so wild.

The story is told by Matthew, the eldest Dunbar brother, and follows the younger brother, Clay. Clay has spent his life training, but training for what? This question appears at the beginning of the novel and is repeated throughout. While the others drive, he runs. While jockeys ride horses on the nearby racecourse Clay creates his own race-course or obstacle course, complete with local tough guys charged with keeping him from completing his race. But Clay doesn’t care about winning—the only race he cared about was won and done, the family reluctantly one mule richer for it.

About a third of the way through it becomes clear that Clay’s training isn’t to win at anything, it’s simply a way to help him survive the ‘murder’. The boys, much like Justin Torre’s We the Animals, are a united front against their remaining (and absent) authority figure, their father, who they refer to as the murderer. When the murderer returns, he upsets the entire household, effectively tearing a brother away with his plea to help build a bridge. Clay makes the decision to leave Matthew, Rory, Henry, Tommy, all the animals, and his almost-girlfriend, Carey, to build a bridge with his Dad.

While the novel tells the story of Matthew, Clay, and their brothers, it also delves back into history to bring the story of their parents, Michael Dunbar and Penelope Lesciuszko.

Zusak creates a full and authentic story with his Dunbar boys and the stories of their parents. This is a book that will stir your emotions; it will call up fear and anger and grief. You will grow to adore the Iliad and Odyssey, fall in love with Carey, and wish you could know the Mistake Maker, just as I did.

For readers of The Book Thief, particularly for any readers who dislike or struggle with literary fiction; I would approach this with awareness that this is quite a large book and it may take a chapter or two to find the rhythm. Regardless, this is an utterly beautiful testament to childhood and simply being Australian. This is the story of boys, horses, and surviving whatever life has in store for you.

3.5/5 stars


Words and photography by Kayla Gaskell

Retrojam: Experience Through the Ages

A while ago I was asked to write an article on a costume and retro clothing shop on Grange Road. Being a lover of old music and funky clothes, I immediately said a wholehearted yes and got in touch with the lovely owner of Retrojam, Julie. We organised a date and I hopped in my car, blasting some Doors and Rolling Stones.

Before I even stepped foot inside the shop, the dresses on the mannequins had already excited me for what was to come. Printed 50’s Rockabilly dresses exuded the potential of the clothes waiting inside. When I first entered the shop, Julie was serving a customer. She greeted me with a smile and showed me around quickly whilst the customer was getting dressed in his handpicked party costume. He emerged, looking like something straight out of the 1970’s, mullet wig and all. Julie explained that the patterned pants and the high-necked shirt were vintage 70s. After he changed back to his normal clothes I was shocked to see how much he had transformed. Julie had taken him right through the eras with her clothing knowledge and dressing expertise.

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Julie was everything I expected and more for such a unique shop. She was lively, dynamic, engaging and just someone who you could chat to for hours. She took me through the shop design that she built from scratch, with some help from her builder. Racks and racks of psychedelic prints and shelves of bright, florescent Go-Go boots were just some of the beautiful items available for rent. Sourced from her own private collection, America, and local op shops, most of the clothes available for rent are authentically retro.

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Julie has been in the clothing industry for her whole working life. She has been dressing customers since 1974 showing she has experience through the ages. If you’re stuck for a costume or a groovy outfit, Julie can dress you from head to toe. Her shop is much loved and has provided clothes for a whole range of events, even including a wedding!

Next time you’re stuck for a costume to wear, or something fancy that will stun friends and family, I would highly suggest Retrojam. Whether you shop on the website or in person, the authenticity of the clothing and the crystal clean condition they come in is something that can’t be matched. Put that with the personal service and the wonderfully bubbly Julie, I wouldn’t go anywhere else.

Visit https://retrojam.net.au/ or call (08) 70065874 to see for yourself!

The shop is open from:

Tuesday 10-5:30pm
Wednesday 10-5pm
Thursday 10-5:30pm (or later by appointment)
Friday 10-5pm
Saturday 9:30-4pm


Words by Sarah Ingham.
Photographs from https://retrojam.net.au/.