cover image Broken Bridge

Broken Bridge

Philip Pullman. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-81972-1

This contemporary novel may well surprise fans of Pullman's ( The Tiger in the Well ; Shadow in the North ) atmospheric 19th-century thrillers. Yet to American readers more familiar with Dickens and Conan Doyle than Dylan Thomas, for instance, its setting--a small Welsh seaside village--may be even more exotic than Victorian London. Pullman deftly interweaves strong themes of racism, coming-of-age, the need for artistic expression and the search for family ties in this moving tale of a mixed-blood teenager growing up in rural north Wales. Ginny, 16, has always been close to her father, who told her that her Haitian mother, a painter, died when she was an infant. Suddenly Ginny's world is turned upside-down when her half-brother Robert, whom she hadn't known existed, comes to live with them. As Ginny makes discoveries about her father and recalls disturbing memories of long ago, she becomes obsessed with learning the truth about the past--the ``broken bridge.'' Ginny's quest is almost mythic in its intensity; the emotional truths that Pullman reveals are so heartfelt and raw that they hardly read like fiction. A spellbinding yarn from an accomplished author. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)