Bridge of Clay by Marcus Zusak

Bridge of  Clay by Marcus Zusak.  Comments by Moira McAlister August 2020

Much of Zusak’s writing is poetic with evocative images and some critics have slammed this book for overdoing it.  Mostly I loved the writing; his use of short sentences, powerful and unusual combinations to achieve an image.  The first half of the book seems more studied and careful than the second.

The book is long, 600 pages and often repetitive and confusing.  Frequently I put it down wishing it had had a good edit.  Much about horse racing could have been scrapped, especially in the second half.  But his images kept drawing me back.  Here are just some that I had noted.

p 18; this kitchen was a geography and climate all its own: overcast walls, parched floor, a coastline of dirty dishes stretching towards the sink.

p 86; a pair of mismatched salt and pepper shakers stood in the middle (of the table) like some comedy duo

p 345; he was a wasteland in a suit

The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta

The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchella:  Comments© by Moira McAlister July 2020

This is set in the Sydney suburb of Haberfield where I was born, so I was always going to read this book, apart from the fact that Marchetta is a well-known and accomplished author, her Looking for Alibrandi considered a modern classic.

Dalhousie Street is a major road in Haberfield and the PLACE is very present with many references that locals will be familiar with; Lamonica’s IGA, Papa’s, Zenetti’s, Ramsey St., Algie Park eyc.  The house itself, the main setting for the story, could be any one of a hundred or so that front Dalhousie Street.

The two main female characters are both strong and believable in their desire to maintain control of the property.  As the blurb says ‘Four lives. One house. And not enough room for everyone’s baggage.’ I particularly like the character Jimmy – flawed and disadvantaged, but optimistic and focused, we know he is going to win through in the end. He is a great match for Rosie.

The writing was beautiful in parts and Marchetta’s use of dialogue is superb.

Fled by Meg Keneally

Fled by Meg Keneally : Comments by Moira McAlister © July 2020

Based on the true story of Mary Bryant, Meg Keneally has done a great job with this novel- it is her first independent novel, though she has co-written four, with her father, Tom.

The story itself is full of action and adventure as the escaped convicts make their way to Coepang only to be recaptured, most of them (including Mary’s two children) dying of fever.  She is finally pardoned and lived out her years in her native Cornwall.

I like the fact that Meg Keneally says, in the author’s note, that the fictitious Jenny gave her the freedom to fill in the gaps in Mary’s life. She has entwined the fictitious with the facts where possible and produced a fast paced, easy to read novel, with short chapters and characters which are believable and evoke empathy.  Jenny herself is strong, and with Keneally’s telling, is multi-faceted; a soft and loving mother, fiercely independent, intelligent and brave.

Looking forward to reading her second novel The Wreck recently released.