The Toll Bridge

Summaries from Reviews:

'In Aidan Chambers' latest novel for young adults, seventeen-year -old Jan tells of how he takes a job at an isolated toll house, in an attempt to stop "trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be".' Into his life come the runaway Adam (for whom Jan is writing his story) and the "high energy girl" Tess (who adds her own comments to Jan's account). As they talk and joke and read and renovate the toll house together, a complex set of relationships develops between Jan, Adam, Tess and (later) Jan's girlfriend Gill. Chambers scatters his clues with meticulous fairness but nonetheless the final denouement is as surprising as in the best detective novels. In The Toll Bridge, however, the mysteries that Jan investigates are as all-encompassing as the reasons for depression, the meaning of names and identity, the consequences of giving and taking gifts and the nature of love (all fifty-seven varieties of it).

This is Chambers writing at his awe-inspiring best, as he draws together four attractive and complex young adults, a provocative range of themes and an easy mixture of narrative modes, to create a novel that is by turns flippant, analytical, playful, erudite and poetic.' JP in Viewpoint

'It is impossible to do justice to this brilliant, complex novel in a few words. The main characters variously seek identity, signified by each using an assumed name. "Janus" leaves home and girlfriend to work as a toll-bridge keeper, a device which permits the use of thematic as well as literal bridges; a fugitive "Adam" proves catalyst to Janus and others. This really is a novel for "young adults" - it is sexually explicit as well as having a disturbing, ground-breaking denouement. Surely one of the most original and rewarding teenage novels of the year - not to be missed.' Linda Newbury in Books for Keeps.

A view of the Swinford Bridge, Oxfordshire, location of The Toll Bridge. A still from a documentary film about the book and the Flemish stage version.

A note about The Dance Sequence - click here.

Buy On-line

Dutch Silver Pencil Award 1993

First published by Bodley Head 1992

Definitions paperback (with Now I Know), January 2007,

ISBN 978-1-862-30287-7, 6.99

Also see - DE TOLBRUG Dutch language stage adaptation of THE TOLL BRIDGE

All contents are ©Aidan Chambers unless otherwise stated.

A stage adaptation of The Toll Bridge gave me one of the happiest experiences of my career. In the mid-late 1990s a group of three young Flemish actors, Robby Cleiren (who played Jan), Sofie Sente (who played Tess), and Pieter Embrecht (who played Adam), their set designer Stef Stessel, and their Producer Dirk Terryn, asked me to work with them to produce a script based on the novel, which led after a year of writing, rewriting and two periods of rehearsals to a very well received production that toured Belgium and The Netherlands for forty performances, revived for another tour a couple of years later.

A production shot from the Flemish stage adaptation of Th Toll Bridge. Robby Cleiren as Jan, Sofie Sente as Tess and Pieter Embrecht as Adam.

Working during an August heatwave in Antwerp, 1997, on the Flemish playscript of The Toll Bridge with producer Dirk Terryn and actor Robby Cleiren.


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