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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Book Review: Across the Bridge by Morag Joss

Firstly, I have to say that I was given this book via a giveaway and, due to my remarkable idiocy and goldfish-memory issues, I can't remember who was kind enough to offer it up. If someone wants to jog my memory in the comments I would be very grateful!

Across the Bridge deceived me with the blurb. It's much more than the description on the rear of the book, involving more protagonists than it suggests. 'Annabel' is presumed dead after a freak occurrence topples a bridge into a river. Pregnant and told to get an abortion by her new husband, she seizes the chance to start a new life but her dismay about the father/daughter pair she sold the car to leads to her returning to a trailer on the side of a river. There she meets Silva, waiting patiently for the return of her husband and child, while Annabel knows the truth about their fate. Ron - a wanderer also running away from his past - has been helping with the salvage and rebuilding of the bridge and helps the duo move across the river to a safer cabin.

The most compelling aspect of this book is the intense attention to setting and description. It's full of sparkling images that stay with you after you've put it down. Equally, Annabel is a good character to follow, especially as her pregnancy moves on. The difficulties of being invisible in society are documented, as are the ghoulish tendencies of people to treat disaster as a spectator sport. We've all noticed that in recent years. Silva and Ron are both different prospects but both are viewpoint characters as well. Ron is perhaps the most objective of them all and he's perhaps my favourite character for that reason and various others.

While I enjoyed much of this book, I had a few reservations about the ending. The climax the novel built to was natural, stemming from all that had come before it and an overwhelming description of grief taking hold. In that respect, perhaps, it was predictable but I didn't dislike it for that reason - if something stems out of good characterisation and foreshadowing then I don't think it's an unreasonable conclusion. I just felt the novel ended too quickly, that the climax hit and very little else followed. While I appreciate the ambiguity and excellence of such endings, I felt slightly cheated that I had no firm idea of Annabel's future. However, I still found the book to be a good read for the reasons mentioned above. Here's one of my favourite passages:

"I turned and walked out into the night air. Cars trickled past me, their headlamps sparkling ahead into blackness. The night was damp and cold. Suddenly I felt I was down there at the bottom of the dark river with the fish, their thick, flat, muscular sides quivering past me, swimming past those poor drowned people and flicking their dead faces, sending pulses of dark water into their open mouths and pulling silky fins through their waving, frondy hair." (p82)

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