Book Review: The Bridge by Enza Gandolfo

This well written book is full of emotion and heartbreak as we are confronted with the question of what happens when people face tragedy and loss. Indeed, all of us face tragedy in some form or another in a personal way or just by being bystanders as we scroll the news. A bridge collapsed in Italy a mere week or two ago, accidents happen regularly and we read and gasp and comment on the tragedy and feel sorry for those affected.

The Bridge draws on events surrounding the collapse of the Westgate Bridge in Melbourne in 1970 and although I was a child living in another state, I remember it. Living in Melbourne, I’ve travelled over it too many times to even count. I know the suburbs of Yarraville and Footscray and the streets in Melbourne which are all beautifully described to make this book even more real for me.

I hadn’t bothered to read the blurb and thought the book was entirely about the bridge collapse and was absorbed in the characters of Antonello and Paolina – their young lives changed by the collapse of the bridge when Antonello, a rigger, narrowly escapes. When the author made me take the leap to 2009 and introduced me to the new characters of teenagers Jo and Ash, I began to baulk. I wanted to know more about the bridge collapse and the lives who had been touched. I wanted more on the bridge itself. I didn’t wait long as the author skilfully intertwined the story of Jo and Ash as well as Sarah around the bridge whose impact is much more than the collapse itself.

The relationships between mothers and daughters is heartfelt and moving. Jo’s mother’s dilemma toward her child and Ash’s mother’s reactions were skilfully portrayed. Each character in the book is well drawn.

What happens to people whose actions cause the death of someone and how do they survive and move on? This question is deeply and intimately explored and there were times when tears filled my eyes grappling with the dilemma of responsibility and grief as if I was there. Some people make mistakes and get away with it and others just have bad luck. Some take responsibility and live with it their whole lives and others don’t. And the questions roll out for all tragedies and that is, ‘What if…?”

It’s not a happy story but it is a moving one and I’d recommend it.

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