The Invisible Bridge (Vintage Contemporaries)

by Julie Orringer

Paperback, 2011




Vintage (2011), Edition: Reprint, 784 pages


Paris, 1937. Andras Lévi, a Hungarian-Jewish architecture student, arrives from Budapest with a scholarship, a single suitcase, and a mysterious letter he promised to deliver. But when he falls into a complicated relationship with the letter's recipient, he becomes privy to a secret that will alter the course of his--and his family's--history. From the small Hungarian town of Konyár to the grand opera houses of Budapest and Paris, from the despair of Carpathian winter to an unimaginable life in labor camps, The Invisible Bridge tells the story of a family shattered and remade in history's darkest hour.


(551 ratings; 4.2)

Media reviews

"The Invisible Bridge" is a stunning first novel, not just in the manner that Orringer's acclaimed short stories seemed to predict, but in a wholly unexpected fashion. Her short fiction is resolutely contemporary, closely — almost obsessively — observed and firmly situated in the time and place
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we now inhabit. "The Invisible Bridge," by contrast, is in every admirable sense an "ambitious" historical novel, in which large human emotions — profound love, familial bonds and the deepest of human loyalties — play out against the backdrop of unimaginable cruelty that was the Holocaust.
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Ms. Orringer’s long, crowded book is its own kind of forest, and not every tree needs to be here; her novel’s dramatic power might have been greatly enhanced by pruning. But Andras’s most enduring wish, it turns out, is to create a kind of family memorial. And Ms. Orringer, writing with both
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granddaughterly reverence and commanding authority, has done it for him.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member brenzi
I didn’t want this book to end and savored the last hundred pages even though the subject matter was so dark and horrific. I just had to know what happened to these characters that I had grown to know so well and care so much about. Julie Orringer is a fabulous storyteller and at first, 600 pages
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seemed to beg for an editor but it really took that many pages to tell the epic story of Andras and Klara Levi and their families from 1937 through the end of WWII.

The story opens in 1937 as Andras is leaving Budapest for Paris, having unexpectedly won a scholarship to the Ecole Especiale d’Architecture to study. It is there that he meets the beautiful, but much older former Hungarian, Klara Morgenstern, a single mother, who teaches ballet to young French girls. She has a secret past that Andras has great difficulty extracting from her. They fall in love and so begins the family saga. In the background, antisemitism is luring its ugly head in France and the early rumblings of war are on the horizon.

We follow Klara and Andras as they leave France when Andras’ visa is revoked because he is Jewish and they return to Budapest. Orringer defined the role of Hungary in the war and it’s effect on its Jewish citizens. Hungary reluctantly aligned itself with Germany during the war but refused to deport any of its Jews until 1944 when Hitler invaded the uncooperative nation and replaced its leader with one he knew would cooperate. During the Nazi occupation, over 450,000 Hungarian Jews were exterminated.

But above all this is a story of family, their love and respect for each other, their loyalty to each other and their faith in each other and I found myself being drawn into this family, loving them, empathizing with them, and mostly wanting to know what would happen next. The characters were so fully formed, so complex that it was easy to be drawn in.

Orringer’s captivating prose hums along as she deftly weaves the coming of age story that is the first part of the book with the horrific holocaust story that takes up the second half. You know what’s coming but you can’t stop reading. You know it’s going to be horrible but you must keep turning pages. Blindly. Furiously. Into the night.

Very highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
He had to think of Klara, he told himself. He had to think of Tamas. And his parents, and Tibor, and Matyas. He had to pretend it wasn't hopeless; he had to allow himself to be fooled into staying alive. He had to make himself a willing party to the insidious trick of love.

The Invisible Bridge by
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Julie Orringer is a straight-up historical novel of the kind I haven't read in a long time. There's no literary fanciness, or historical revisionism; the writing is clear and unembellished and the story is a straightforward account of a decade in the life of a young Hungarian architecture student and his family beginning in 1937.

Andras Levi leaves Budapest to study in Paris. Restrictions had been placed on the number of Jews allowed to work or study and he can't get a place in a local university. In Paris, he struggles financially and falls in love. His brother, Tibor, goes to study medicine in Italy and his youngest brother feels trapped in their small hometown taking care of their parents. The Paris years are filled with the usual hope and expectations of any young man who is excited by his studies and in love. The reader, of course, is aware of what must happen soon, of an urgency completely absent from the lives of the story's characters. Sure, things are difficult and prejudice wasn't left behind in Hungary, but the politics of the day are so much less important than Andras' day to day concerns.

I knew next to nothing about what happened in Hungary during the war. If I thought about it at all, I simply assumed that it suffered the same fate of all those trampled and destroyed eastern European countries, so the story told here did hold surprises for me and the sometimes intrusive historical segments were necessary for my understanding of events. While the book sped up as the decade passed, losing the lavish detail of the years spent in Paris for a pared down recounting of life in Budapest during the war, I think that that suited the flow of the novel.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
In 1937, Andras Lévi travels from his home in Budapest to Paris to study architecture at the École Spéciale. He faces a variety of challenges adjusting to the new country and making ends meet, but manages to find a part-time job, make friends of fellow students, and most importantly, fall in
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love with Klara, an older woman with a secret past. But their happiness is overshadowed by the growing threat of Nazi Germany, especially since Andras and Klara are both Jewish. A series of events take Andras and Klara back to Hungary, where Andras is pressed into service not as a soldier, but as a member of a labor corps responsible for digging ditches, felling trees, loading boxcars, and so on.

The first half of The Invisible Bridge takes place primarily in Paris, and serves to develop a rich cast of characters in a setting that is idyllic compared to what they have in store. Andras is established as a promising young architect; his brother Tibor, a physician. The brothers meet their future wives, and forge strong bonds with a group of peers. And then suddenly, new laws affecting Jewish immigrants change everything, and their close-knit group is scattered. The second half of the book covers the war years in harrowing detail, and it was interesting to read about World War II from a Hungarian perspective. Hungary was part of the Axis powers allied with Germany and Italy, but this was somewhat by force. Many of the characters in this book secretly hoped for Germany's downfall. Life was one struggle after another: labor servicemen were subjected to extremely poor conditions as well as physical and emotional abuse. It wasn't any easier for those left at home, as they faced food shortages and government corruption. And communication channels were poor, so people often didn't know how their loved ones were faring while they were apart.

The Invisible Bridge is a well-paced story of love and hardship, but it's also a long book (nearly 600 pages), and I lost concentration in the last 100 pages. Some aspects felt repetitive: Andras leaves for labor service, returns home, and is called up again. And then he comes home. And then he is called back. And ... well, you get the idea. Each time there were new plot developments both in his life and in the war, but I still tired of it. And yet, there was a lot of excitement in this story, as well as emotion, and I will not soon forget Andras, his family, and the hardships they had to overcome.
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LibraryThing member mrstreme
As one reads more and more about the atrocities of World War II, it’s really a wonder that war is still part of any country’s foreign policy. Here is a war, no that long ago, that ravished several continents and left millions of people dead. This was a war against people, buildings, cultures
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and a way of life. Many authors, including Julie Orringer and her The Invisible Bridge, have seized this opportunity to remind us again of the devastation of World War II, by creating stories about how war affects us all.

In The Invisible Bridge, the reader follows young Andras Levi, who was leaving his native Hungary to pursue an architectural degree in Paris. The first half of Orringer’s tome was devoted to Andras’ time in Paris – his struggle to afford tuition, his romantic entanglements with Claire and the affects of anti-Semitism in school. He and his friends – all Jewish – watched with an anxious eye as Hitler began his conquering of Europe. Eventually, Andras must return home, facing the reality that his homeland will enter war with him in it.

Being in a Budapest was one of the safest places for European Jews during World War II. Hungary was not keen on Hitler’s “Final Solution” policies, and while Jews were economically and politically repressed, it wasn’t until the end of the war that they faced the fates of their European neighbors. While you read about Andras’ struggles serving in the Hungarian labor force, you kept waiting for the other shoe to drop: when Andras would be killed, when his family would be “evacuated,” when senseless killing would begin. It was a weird sense of dread, knowing the inevitable would occur.

The Invisible Bridge is Orringer’s first novel, and she should be applauded for tackling such a tremendous subject. Admittedly, the second half of the novel – when Andras was back in Hungary – was the most engaging part of the story for me. The amount of pages spent of his time in Paris seemed a bit excessive, compared to his plight once Andras returned home. Nonetheless, I would recommend The Invisible Bridge to fans of World War II fiction – the story of Hungarian Jews was a different side to this war – and one readers might find educational and provocative.
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LibraryThing member Chatterbox
Wow, what an accomplishment! OK, I wouldn't classify this as "literary" fiction, but it's a very accomplished and thoughtful saga/novel of the kind that I thought wasn't being written any more. It dealt in a straightforward manner with people and characters and historic events, with love, war and
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death; and yet never lapsed into cheap sentiment or glib recitations. If anything, it's a non-Holocaust focused Holocaust novel; while the two main families, the Levis and the Haszs, are Hungarian Jews and most of their friends are Jewish as well, and all are caught up in the turmoil of the period from 1938 until 1945, the story is exceptionally well-told on a very human level. I don't know how she did it, but Orringer managed to keep all the threads of a long and complex novel organized and well managed, in much the same way that a composer might conduct a Mahler symphony. No mean feat, especially when she also managed to maintain a sense of time and place.

A few words about the plot: at the outset, we meet Andras Levi, the central character, about to embark on the adventure of his life: studying architecture in Paris. Within the first few pages, we encounter everyone who will play a critical role in his world throughout the next several years, from Novak, the fellow Hungarian who befriends him on the train and offers him a job; the Hasz family, who ask him to deliver a box to their son Jozsef, also in Paris; his brothers, Tibor and Matyas; his circle of Jewish friends at the architecture school. It's a vivid portrayal of a world on the verge of disappearing and crumbling; as it does, Andras clings as long as he can to his dreams of building, in particular building a dream house that he and the woman he loves, Klara, can share. "In his mind he could page through a deep stack of them, those ghostly blueprints of a life they had not yet lived and might never" share.

The only major flaw with this novel, in my eyes at least, is that the ending felt rushed and was recounted indirectly -- almost as if the author became exhausted with her leisurely pace earlier on (this is a long novel...) and just really wanted it to be done, or because she couldn't figure out a way to tell the story she needed to about the eventual fate of many of the characters. It's OK, I suppose, but the big jump covers the most traumatic period for Hungary's Jews, from the summer of 1944 until the end of the war, and it's told after the event, mostly, by some characters to others. That's all that stopped this "thumping good read" from being a five-star book for me -- as it is, I'm awarding it 4.7 stars, a place on my memorable reads for the year and a recommendation to run out and read it, if historical sagas are your cup of tea.
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LibraryThing member Kasthu
I totally picked this book up on a whim as I was waiting for a train in 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. I had about three other books in my suitcase (for an overnight trip!), but this was one of those books that sits on display right at the front of the store. And since I was in the mood for a
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big, long saga, this one seemed like it would be right up my alley.

There are two distinctive parts to this novel. The first part begins in 1937 when Andras Levi, a young, gauche Hungarian-Jewish man, comes to Paris to study architecture. He meets and falls in love with Klara, a woman nine years his senior. So far, so good. But with war on the horizon, things don’t remain calm for long, and Andras and Klara are forced to move back to Hungary. This novel covers a lot of ground, literally, from Paris to Budapest and the work camps of the Carpathians.

If you know anything about history, you know that things can’t turn out well for everyone, but you continue to read this book anyways. It’s a stunning panorama of WWII, as told from the point of view of a handful of normal, real people (based on the author’s family members’ experience). There are some heartbreaking, very real moments in the book, and I loved how the author described them.

There’s a point in the middle of the book where things get repetitive; Andras is drafted into the work camps, then returns home, then goes back to the work camps, etc. The author tends to skim over some of the more painful stories in the book (i.e., Klara’s past, which, despite the tragedy to it, I thought was remarkable). And in the second half of the book, Andras and Klara’s relationship fades into the background—as do their personalities. Be warned that this is an extremely intense book, but I literally couldn’t put it down—even though I usually find books on or set during WWII extremely depressing. You’d think that a novel on the holocaust might not be the best choice for this time of year (when I’m looking for beach reads), but I thought this book was excellent.
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
All too rarely a book comes along that carries you off on a journey of the senses. The Invisible Bridge was such a book for me. A breath-taking, romantic love story combined with a spell bounding historical epic, this book has cost me a few tears along with a few late nights recently.

Telling the
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story of Klara and Andras, set in Paris and Budapest during the late 1930’s and into the war years, the author weaves her tale through the political events that were taking place in Europe over these years. A young Hungarian student comes to Paris to study architecture. He meets and falls in love with the mysterious Claire (Klara). As Europe erupts around them their lives are threaded with disaster, despair and hope.

But this book is so much more than a war-torn romantic story. We follow many characters, see the struggle that families went through to survive these turbulent times. We also see that the Natzi policy toward the Jews was not a new thing, the Jews had been persecuted and discriminated against for centuries, and their being treated like lesser citizens was something they had come accustomed to. The Natzis took the treatment of Jews a step further, but many Europeans stood by in complacent silence.

Like painting a picture, the author’s beautiful writing and descriptive passages give depth and emotion to this story of love, courage, honor, and most importantly survival. Her ability to place you into this past time and make you feel such strong emotions is a testament to her talent. I highly recommend this book.
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LibraryThing member thornton37814
Andras Levi, a Hungarian Jew, manages to secure a chance to study architecture in France. This book chronicles his time in France and his brother's chance to study medicine in Italy. Then they lose their student visas and must return home. The hardships suffered by them and by their families are
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chronicled in the book. I was a bit intimidated by the size of this book -- almost 600 pages, but I need not have worried. Orringer is a very skillful storyteller and kept my attention throughout the entire book. The characters are well drawn. The atrocities suffered by the Jews during the Holocaust are never easy to read, so be prepared to shed a few tears. I am impressed by the amount of research that the author must have done to write such a marvelous piece of historical fiction.
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LibraryThing member mks27
The Invisible Bridge tells the very personal and intimate story of love and survival in Nazi influenced and occupied Europe by one Andras Levi, his friends, and his family. It is one of the best novels I have read this year or in recent memory.

Orringer drew each character perfectly, complexly, and
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so realistically. Indeed, she based them and the story on her family’s own experiences, which is why the characters seem so real. The dominate themes are coming of age, survival, making a life amid chaos, and the randomness of war and death. The settings are perfect in every detail, especially Budapest, Paris, and Nice.

The books offers readers a delicate and complicated love story, the story of a family struggling to survive, the story of secrets and the pain and loss they cause, and the story of what happens to people when everything they have including social status, wealth, and material goods are stripped away.

Don’t be discouraged by thinking this is just another Holocaust novel. It is unique. It tells the story of Hungary and Hungarian Jews, a story I knew precious little about. Hungary was an on Hitler’s side, but refused to deport its Jews until the German army invaded. So, the story is told from a unique perspective.

Julie Orringer writes in a smooth and fluid manner and although, the novel is long, the reading goes quickly. Her descriptions eloquently paint a scene for her readers. Here, Orringer describes the coming of Autumn:

“The scent of it blew through the channel of the Seine like the perfume of a girl on the threshold of a party. Her foot in its satin shoe had not yet crossed the sill, but everyone knew she was there.”

This novel will stay with me, unforgettable and a must read.
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LibraryThing member porch_reader
Andras Levi is a Hungarian Jew living in Paris and attending architectural school. He feels lucky to have been chosen to attend the school and provided with a scholarship because, as he is leaving for school, opportunities for Jewish people in Hungary are becoming much more restricted. Throughout
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the first section of this book, Andras faces his share of struggles, living on a restricted budget, finding work, negotiating a romantic relationship. But these struggles are nothing compared to the horrors that face Andras when he is forced to return to Hungary as World War II begins.

This book succeeds on so many levels. It is an epic story of the Levi family, Andras and his two brothers. This is also historical fiction at its best. Although World War II is the focus of much historical fiction, this book provides insight into the plight of Hungarian Jews, who for much of the war are "luckier" than those in Germany or Poland. Through the experiences of Levi, his wife, his brothers, and his friends, the horrors of this period of time are vivid and disturbing. (Although I seldom remember my dreams, I had a horrible nightmare one night after reading this book that sticks with me still.)

Orringer also does an amazing job of showing how we can become immune to recognizing the horrors of war. Several times throughout the story, Andras gets a lucky break. But to consider him lucky, given the situations he faces, is absurd. In fact, even when Andras gets a larger portion of food for the day or a safer work assignment, he is frustrated by the lack of control that he has over the situation.

This is not an easy book to read, but it is a masterpiece of historical fiction. I highly recommend it!
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LibraryThing member labfs39
In many ways this book could have been titled "Innocence Lost": the innocence of the main character, Andras, the innocence of a continent that thought another World War could be averted through appeasement, the innocence of the Jewish people who thought their neighbors and countrymen would never
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allow the worst to happen.

The Invisible Bridge begins with a young Hungarian, Andras, going to Paris to begin architectural school. There he learns about anti-semitism, homosexuality, adultery, and love. For most of the book, life seems to continually astonish Andras. He is a country boy thrown into the cosmopolitan big city, the Hungarian confronted with Western ideas and ideals, and the uninitiated learning about the unexpected complexities of relationships. At times I became a bit frustrated with his naivete. Could anyone really be that wide-eyed and trusting?

Slowly though the book begins to gather momentum, and it was like being on a train gathering speed as it heads for a collapsed trestle that only we can foresee. Tension builds until Andras and his family and friends are confronted with the ugliest sides of human nature: violence, betrayal, and death. Unfortunately, nearly at the end, the book switches from a narration of the present to a condensed, backward-looking narrative that lost a lot of its impact due to the sudden distance between the reader and the action. It's still a powerful story, but I wonder at the author's rather abrupt wrap-up of the last year of the war. Was she afraid the book was getting too long? Too painful to read?

In any case, I found the novel to be a compelling read and an interesting look at the role of Hungary in first saving and then deporting its Jews to Nazi camps and death. Orringer balances the brutality of hatred with the power of family connections and the sacrifices people are willing to make for those they love. In doing so, she rescues the book from being grim and cynical to one of survival and hope. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member neddludd
Imagine opening your curtains one morning and seeing a completely different world than you expect. This extraordinary novel morphs from a pre-warParisian love story, to a complex tale incorporating the Holocaust from an intensely personal perspective. How did your mother survive--or not? Did your
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brother save your life--and then perish? What torture befll your best friend? You view the psychopathic bloodlust of the Nazis and their fascist collaborators to kill Jews, as if they were hunting deer in a forest, or more appropriately, ridding a house of insects. But Orringer's characters are so fully developed and dimensional that we see history's random events as they impact one person's dreams of becoming an architect, another's delusion that he will be a celebrated cabaret star, a third's sexuality. Rarely do characters and their lives enter your consciousness as they do in this brave book. It shows that with talent, a familiar tale can be made new and terrifying and inspiring. The ending is a bit abrupt, but makes sense in its context. One comes away angry that such a multitude of individuals--not the six million--but men and women who were students, and artists, and mothers, and fathers, and doctors, and every blessed individual atom of human existence were stolen from us, were subjected to a barbarity that is irrational and inexorable. A reviewer mentioned Tolstoy in describing this book, and the comparaison is apt.
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LibraryThing member chrisblocker
I've had my eye on this book since it was first published. The size, the cover, the promise of an epic: all these enticed me. It is only because of other commitments I didn't read The Invisible Bridge sooner. And then there were the lists and the ratings, all of which promised a fabulous read. In
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the end The Invisible Bridge was all it promised to be, yet it fell flat.

Orringer's debut novel is certainly epic. It is the sort of story I can imagine Tolstoy penning. The story spans many years and reaches from one edge of Europe to another. It offers a unique perspective of the Hungarian Jews throughout World War II. For the large part, the Hungarian Jewish population did not receive as harsh of treatment as the rest of Europe's Jews though they were given few freedoms and worked in labor camps; it wasn't until the final months of the war, during German occupation, that an attempt to exterminate Hungary's Jewish population commenced. Interesting...

Except it wasn't. Hundreds and hundreds of pages are spent building up these characters that once the rages of world war rise up the events rush past. And that might work if I was invested in these characters. But, despite the considerable time spent molding the characters right in front of me, I wasn't invested and only because these characters and their stories weren't believable to me. The Lévi boys are saints. The relationships they have with their wives is worthy of an article in Marriage Partnership. The number of characters who come out of these atrocities alive—due to every convenience possible in a time of genocide—is hugely disproportionate to the facts. The Invisible Bridge seemed closer to an allegory or fairy tale set during WWII than an historical novel. There's a ton of good stuff in these pages, I just could believe in it enough to fall in love with it.

The speedy ending. The non-fleshed characters. The Invisible Bridge felt to me like a first draft. Maybe it was. Maybe after more than 600 pages Orringer was eager to move on to something else. Maybe the publisher was applying pressure. I don't know. There's certainly some potential in this one, but not enough to bridge the enormous gaps it leaves wide open.
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LibraryThing member CarolynSchroeder
This is such a sad, wise, beautiful family saga and unlike any I have read before. Based predominantly on Orringer's ancestors, she clearly reasearched and listened incredibly well. That said, to also make it a readable, enjoyable story is quite a feat. As soon as I got into the novel, I realized
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how little I knew about Hungary's involvement in World War II ~ both from a political perspective (i.e., its tenuous alliance with Germany) and how it affected the Hungarian Jews. It is not often written about. The plot basically follows the lives of three brothers, Andras, Tibor and Matyas and their families, friends and lovers, before, during and a bit after World War II. The relationships are surprisingly beautiful and the other realization I had was that it was a LONG time since I read a novel where the family members (and friends) truly loved and cared for each other (there being an overflow of dysfuntional family stories these days, I think!). It was refreshing. Each brother has a unique path and the discovery is in following their lives and their correspondence with the family members. The book is long and does drag in some spots, but that is a very small complaint. Highly recommended to get lost in, learn and have renewed faith in the power of love (of all kinds, familial, friendship and partners).
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LibraryThing member booksinthebelfry
A moving story, beautifully written. Do not skip over the poem "Any Case" by Wislawa Szymborska, which Orringer has chosen to include following her epilogue. Far from an afterthought, it is both a fitting coda to the narrative and also its poetically distilled essence.
LibraryThing member m.belljackson
The Invisible Bridge engages readers from the first chapter while offering an unusual, compelling, and ripping along plot.
Foreshadowing reveals only enough to keep pages turning through one of the best books ever written!
LibraryThing member kheders
Absolutely fabulous book. Hungarian Jewish families and their experiences in late 1930s-1945. Set in Budapest and Paris. Well written, engrossing, riveting and disturbing. Reminder of the role of Hungary in WWII and insight into the Service Camps.
LibraryThing member Schmerguls
This novel tells the story of a Hungarian Jewish youth who in 1937 goes to Paris to study architecture. Just that mch tells you what is the story to be told--the Holocaust and all its attendant horrors! The youth falls n love in Paris, goes back to Hungary with his lover, marries her, has a son,
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gets into the Hungarian forces and undergoes the horrors of a Jew in a force allied with Hitler. Just occasionally some decent people hlep and reacst decenly to overcome exceptionally evil folk--a most welcome thing in so dire a novel..I presume the book has some historical veracity--it sure seems to have. While a dire book it is relentlessly well-told and absorbing. As good a novel on World War II and its Holocaust horrors as I' remember reading/
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LibraryThing member mlhershey
An aspect of World War II that I was not familiar with...well researched and well written, but so long and so painful! I don't know how many World War II books I've read now--but I believe it's ENOUGH.
LibraryThing member Bellettres
A very moving story of a family of Jews in World War II-era Hungary. It was hard to get into the story, and slow-going most of the way--lots of Hungarian names of people and places. But it shed light on a part of World War II that was new to me. I didn't know that Hungary was one of Hitler's
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allies, and that, for a long time into the war, Hungarian Jews were not forbidden to work, and were not deported. Definitely worth reading.
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LibraryThing member BBleil
I have read several WWII books in the last year, and this novel is just as good and definitely at the top of the list. It's a long and involved story centered on a couple, the man from a poorer rural upbringing and the woman from an affluent but troubled past, as they encounter the war and their
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involvement and struggle to survive. Much of the story is developed before the war, so by the time Hitler arrives and everything goes crazy, you feel so involved with the characters it's like your own family is in danger. I highly recommend this book.
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LibraryThing member brocade
The characters are rich and believably developed. Readers who enjoy epic historical novels will appreciate this detailed, well-researched book about student life in Paris in the 1930s, architecture, theater, Jewish culture, Hungarian Jews during WWII.

I only wished that the plot details didn't
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always tie up so neatly. A solution--or a mishap--always happened at the exact dramatic moment. It happened so consistently that I was made aware of the novelist pulling puppet strings, which detracted from my absorption in the events of the book. A small quibble but I make it.

I listened to this as an audio book on Audible and enjoyed the narration (Arthur Morey).
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LibraryThing member gaeta1
This review contains spoilers. Or maybe it doesn't contain spoilers for other readers; I don't know.

To start off with, a novel addressing the plight of Hungarian Jews is a reasonably unusual subject for a young American writer (though I don't think Americans are particularly provincial in the
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topics they choose) that it is obvious the author must have a personal connection with the source material. Right from the beginning it's pretty clear that the author is writing about her grandparents. Thus, all tension is eliminated; you know that the main characters are going to survive, though peripheral characters may perish and all will suffer horribly. There's another problem. Could you write a novel about people you love and admire, people that you knew had lived through one of the greatest tragedies in world history, and write about them objectively? Could you show them as petty or cowardly? Could you write about their sex lives? I know I wouldn't be able to do it. Alas, Julie Orringer can't do it, either. I don't know if you can fault her for that; she tries gamely in an effort that I believe is doomed to fail--somewhat--from the beginning.

In 1937, young Andras Levi leaves Budapest to attend architecture school in Paris. Through mutal friends in the theater, he meets an older woman, a ballet teacher with an-out-of-wedlock daughter, Klara Morgenstern, and they fall in love. This first part of the novel, full of school exams, ballet and theatrical performances, and Sunday dinners--as well as the anti-Semiticism and the growing German menace--might be a bit slow for some readers. It is beautifully written with many arresting images--the little girls in their white tulle clusered blizzard-like around the coffee cake served backstage--a woman's shoe peeking out slyly under the fabric wall during the segregated dancing of an Orthodox wedding--as Ms Orringer paints a portrait of a world that is about to come crashing down. During this part of the book, Andras and Klara have some individuality; they sometimes argue; they even separate for s short time.

Unfortunately, during the second half of the book, after Andras feels compelled to return to Hungary after his student visa expires, the characters start losing their individuality. They suffer; they become icons. Klara in particular slowly recedes into a pasteboard image of the suffering and noble wife, until the vital woman of Paris is nothing more than a Jewish Madonna with a baby's starfish hand at her breast. They become, in short, more symbols that characters that the reader cares about--or at least I cared about--and the novel suffers.

Look, I'm not blaming Ms Orringer. I don't know if it would have been possible for her to portray her beloved grandparents otherwise. And I yearn for a grand and sweeping novel, filled with sensory details and thought-provoking action, which she certainly provides. I'd be glad to read another one of her novels--especially one in which she doesn't stack the deck against herself from the start.
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LibraryThing member LaBibliophille
The Invisible Bridge is the stunning (but very long) first novel by Julie Orringer. The story opens in Budapest, Hungary in 1937. A young Jewish man, Andras Levi, is Hungary to study architecture in Paris. His family is poor, but he has received a scholarship to study at the Ecole Speciale. As he
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is preparing to depart, Andras goes to the bank to exchange money. He is noticed by the wife of the bank president, who summons him to her home. She asks him to deliver a package to her son, who is also studying in Paris. When Andras goes to her home to collect the package, the woman's mother-in-law gives him a letter to post in Paris. The favors that Andras does for these women touch off a series of life-changing events for Andras.

Andras has left behind not only his parents in Hungary, but his younger brother Matyas, still in school, and his older and much beloved brother Tibor. Tibor is working in Budapest, hoping to save enough money to attend medical school. Through one of the contacts that Andras develops in Paris, Tibor is granted a scholarship to study medicine in Modena, Italy.

The first part of the book tells of Andras' first two years of school in Paris. He takes a job at a theater, and through that meets the mysterious woman to whom he had posted the letter given to him in Budapest. After Andras' second year of school, Europe becomes engulfed in the Second World War. Andras must return to Hungary, where he conscripted in the Hungarian forced labor service.

World War II has spawned innumerable stories. So many of them are worth hearing and remembering. The story of the Jews of Hungary is one that is not told that frequently. Although The Invisible Bridge is fiction, there is much fact in the story. It is sad, but the the emphasis on the enduring nature of the human spirit is powerful.

I highly recommend this book!
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LibraryThing member nivramkoorb
There are so many positive aspects to this book. It gave a great historical rendering of a part of World War II that I did not know much about. Orringer did a good job of showing the changing scene that was occurring and how hard it was for the main characters to totally grasp the the laws of
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civilization and justice were slowly ebbing away. I found the book to be a good read although some of the prose could be a bit ornate. Any long book with multiple characters that is told through the eyes of just one is a challenge. Some of the relationships and situations were a little too coincidental and perfect. Andras always seemed to have people who wanted to help him,(having one General help was a little much, but another General helping was a bit over the top). Because of all of the characters it was not possible for everything to work out perfectly. I felt that Klara's relationship with Elisabeth could have been the result of who her father was. This was not explored. I think the extortion lent a good twist to the plot. I think that many times we think about the Holocast and think of a quick life change for the Jews in that situation but the Budapest experience showed the slow deterioration of life against the belief that maybe it might work out okay. How hard it must have been for people to finally realize what was to be inevitable. The end may have been rushed but I give Orringer credit for taking what was the worst part(German Occupation and destruction of Budapest) and describing it in her must sparse description. I felt what occurred and did not need more detail. In fact she did a great job of conveying the horror without describing torture etc. in detail. For those who want to understand more about the war(especially those in the US who have never hand to endure anything like World War II) this book is an excellent vehicle to experience.
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7.93 inches


140003437X / 9781400034376
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