Top critical review
A Bridge Too Far.
on 7 June 2012
As you've probably already gathered, the central narrative conceit at the heart of this novel is the exciting and fascinating game of... CONTRACT BRIDGE..!! In plumping for such an obscure point of reference, it's a shame that Sachar (or perhaps his publisher...) turns out to be something of an apologist (there are lots of bits that you're encouraged to skip if you find them too boring/difficult/irrelevant), but unfortunately there's a similarly half-hearted feel to the rest of the novel too.
There *is* a great yarn in there - the great uncle's noir-ish back story of corrupt high society - but you only get to it by plodding through the distinctly suburban musings of a painfully unremarkable teen protagonist. Hey-ho.
However, the real 'wince' moment comes when Sachar introduces a frankly laughable supernatural element to the plot about two thirds of the way through (and nothing like the nuanced, myth-mingling-with-reality, echoes-of-history, magic-y-realist thing he does so wonderfully in 'Holes'). Everything from this point onwards hinges on the reader accepting a truly sloppy narrative premise... which I entirely failed to do (and so will many other readers, I fear).
One for die-hard Sachar fans only.