The Bridge by Enza Gandolfo

Published: 2018 1. First lines 2. Cover: Scribe Publications 3. West Gate Bridge Collapse 1970 Public Records Office of Victoria Source: ABC News 4. West Gate Bridge [Public Domain] via Public Domain Pictures

Young Italian migrant Antonello is working as a rigger on the construction of the West Gate Bridge, Melbourne in 1970. When part of the bridge collapses during its construction killing thirty-five people, “Nello” is profoundly affected by “survivor guilt”. The story moves to 2009 when a terrible accident occurs at the bridge, and Nello’s family is again dealing with another tragedy.

“He was bound to the bridge, bound to living under its shadow.”

Glanceabook: This is a very moving story about people living with grief and guilt for surviving a tragedy when others do not. The characters are portrayed realistically, and the reader feels the anguish felt immediately after the tragedy. The author skillfully develops these emotions as they change through the years following the tragedy.

  • Judges’ Report (Stella Prize): “The writing in this evocative, multi-generational novel is exquisite; the way in which Gandolfo takes us into moments of catastrophe, drawing characters so that they come to life, without over-dramatising, shows a novelist of the highest calibre. This is a story with many layers that is deeply intellectual and unashamedly working-class, showing Footscray and Melbourne’s west in ways we’ve not seen before. Emotionally intelligent and yet unsentimental, The Bridge deals with complex ethical questions with great humanity and subtlety.”
  • ANZ Litlovers: “What is so skillful about this book that’s still haunting me days after finishing it is the way the story depicts both the catalyst for this stupidity and the remorse, self-loathing and grief for destroyed lives that follows it.  My firm beliefs about moral culpability and my resistance to the idea that this was an ‘accident’ shifted.”

Quotes:


“Antonello remembered the overwhelming feeling of pride when he started working on the bridge. But as they fell behind schedule, further and further, it turned to shame and embarrassment – that bridge is taking longer than Rome to build, are you guys building it with tweezers? He remembered the mounting pressure to complete the project, to ignore the problems.”

“Some days are sprints: time races, and the day seems to end before it has begun. Other days drift, time stretching and expanding, and with no end in sight.”

Awards: The Stella Prize Nominee for Shortlist (2019)


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