Book review: The Broken Bridge by Philip Pullman (QUICK READS 823.91 PUL)
Victoria has read this QUICK READ as part of the Six Book Challenge
I’m a fan of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy and its heroine, Lyra Belacqua. Lyra, who appears in the first book as a scruffy 12-year old orphan, quickly proves herself to be in possession of a huge array of heroic traits. She is fiercely loyal, risking her life (and arguably her soul) to protect her companions. Her talent for lying makes her an excellent spy and diplomat. Lyra knows she is important- wanted by the government, the army, the church, her estranged mother, her uncle and even creatures from parallel worlds- but nobody tells her exactly which part she is destined to play. Pullman nurtures her natural talents until she grows into a resolute young woman who makes a great personal sacrifice rather than risking the safety of millions of others.
16 year old artist Ginny is one of Pullman’s earlier creations.Fiercely proud of her Haitian mother or ‘maman’, who died a few weeks after she was born, Ginny considers French to be her mother tongue- unusual for someone living on a beach in Wales. She doesn’t want to be defined by her blackness, but understands that her black art is different from white art, even if she can’t decide why. The sudden arrival of a white half-brother, only months older than Ginny, forces her father to admit that maman was his ‘other woman’ and Ginny is illegitimate. In her search for the ‘real’ maman, Ginny discovers Haitian Loa, or spirits, like the passionate Erzulie and Baron Samedi, who likes to possess his believers. Previously unable to remember much of her childhood, Ginny begins to have flashbacks to a caravan in the woods. Are these woods and her father’s unfaithfulness linked to the local legend of the broken bridge, and the baby who died there at the hands of a local gangster?
This novel is rather complex, but Ginny is a complex character. First we are presented with her memories, which are often poor. When she meets with people from her childhood her first impressions are strong but highly biased. These people each have their own versions of events and how much they reveal depends on which Loa is hovering nearby. As a result it took me a few days to finish what should have been a quick read! But I think this book was really worth the challenge.
If you enjoyed The Broken Bridge, try these:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (QUICK READS 823.91 SHE) is full of illustrations by the novel’s narrator, Junior. Junior lives on a Native American reservation but moves to an all-white school. The book has been banned in parts of America, prompting the author Sherman Alexie to write to the Wall Street Journal and ask why native children’s experiences are often overlooked.
The Butterfly Tattoo (QUICK READS 823.91 PUL) is a love story with an incredible first sentence: “Chris Marshall met the girl he was going to kill on a warm Oxford evening” Loosely based on Romeo and Juliet, the novel deals with themes like parental abuse, revenge and terrorism, so we recommend it to older readers only
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