Summary: Julie Orringer’s astonishing first novel, eagerly awaited since the publication of her heralded best-selling short-story collection, How to Breathe Underwater (“fiercely beautiful”—The New York Times; “unbelievably good”—Monica Ali), is a grand love story set against the backdrop of Budapest and Paris, an epic tale of three brothers whose lives are ravaged by war, and the chronicle of one family’s struggle against the forces that threaten to annihilate it.
Paris, 1937. Andras Lévi, a Hungarian-Jewish architecture student, arrives from Budapest with a scholarship, a single suitcase, and a mysterious letter he has promised to deliver to C. Morgenstern on the rue de Sévigné. As he falls into a complicated relationship with the letter’s recipient, he becomes privy to a secret history that will alter the course of his own life. Meanwhile, as his elder brother takes up medical studies in Modena and their younger brother leaves school for the stage, Europe’s unfolding tragedy sends each of their lives into terrifying uncertainty. At the end of Andras’s second summer in Paris, all of Europe erupts in a cataclysm of war.
From the small Hungarian town of Konyár to the grand opera houses of Budapest and Paris, from the lonely chill of Andras’s room on the rue des Écoles to the deep and enduring connection he discovers on the rue de Sévigné, from the despair of Carpathian winter to an unimaginable life in forced labor camps and beyond, The Invisible Bridge tells the story of a love tested by disaster, of brothers whose bonds cannot be broken, of a family shattered and remade in history’s darkest hour, and of the dangerous power of art in a time of war.
Expertly crafted, magnificently written, emotionally haunting, and impossible to put down, The Invisible Bridge resoundingly confirms Julie Orringer’s place as one of today’s most vital and commanding young literary talents. -- Knopf
WOW! I hardly know where to begin with THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE by Julie Orringer. I picked up this book because it was listed as one of Entertainment Weekly's 18 Books We Can't Wait to Read This Summer (I'm hosting the challenge - you can still sign-up) and I had read a few very promising reviews. I have to say that this novel did not disappoint. I absolutely loved THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE, and I'd go so far as to say that this novel blew me away!
There is no way that I can write a review that does this book justice. Part of me doesn't even want to try; however, I do think that everyone should read this amazing novel. So I'm going to try to share with you some of the things that really captured my attention and made this novel extra-special.
Probably the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about the reasons why this book is so good is the actual story itself. There is no doubt that the novel is an ambitious undertaking because it covers the years leading up to World War II as well as the events that occurred during the war. It takes place in many European countries including Hungary and France; however, it's also a coming-of age story and a love story. It deals with the war, discrimination, poverty, criminal activity; and it's full of twists and turns. Needless to say, THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE is pretty grand in scope. But what I found I appreciated the most about the story was how it showed some incredible details about the war and the effects it had on countries and the Jewish people. What really affected me, though, was how it showed the horrific effects that the war had on individuals and their families. While I did love reading THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE, there is no doubt that parts of it were extremely difficult to read.
I also truly appreciated the wide range of characters that appeared in this story. Of course, I fell in love with Andras and his family, but I also really enjoyed that they were extremely complex characters with a wide range of emotions. I also liked the secondary characters, even the ones that appeared as types of villains, because they, too, were multi-dimensional. That's not to say that I sympathized with them or excused their behavior, but I do think they were very interesting to analyze. There is no doubt that the characters will get under your skin and cause you to reflect on your own life and your relationships with others.
I was caught up in the characters and their plights from the first few pages. And even though this book was around 600 pages long, it never let me go. As I was reading this book, I kept telling myself that it had to be based on a true story. I realize the book is classified as fiction, but the story and the characters just seemed to real for me to believe that it was entirely fabricated. It's apparent that the author, Julie Orringer, did a huge amount of research to write a novel of this proportion. However, I also discovered that Ms. Orringer based much of the book on her own grandfather and his experiences during World War II. Check out this fantastic author interview to learn more about the inspiration for this novel.
A huge part of my love for this novel was because of Ms. Orringer's writing. Not only was the story captivating, but she created some very complex and memorable characters. But I think it was her actual prose that really took this book to the next level. She is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful storytellers that I've ever read. I found myself pausing and reflecting on her words many, many times throughout this novel. And even though huge parts of this story were utterly tragic, Ms. Orringer managed to infuse such a feeling of hope and resilience into this story that I actually finished it with a good feeling in my heart.
Of course, you're probably not surprised that I recommend THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE for book clubs. It is a long book that isn't always easy to read because of the subject matter, but it is so worth reading. There is a reader's guide available which brings up some very heavy subjects, but I believe that individuals will want to address these topics in further detail. Some of themes you might want to discuss include family, loyalty, love, choices, fate/chance, war, hatred, perseverance, and finally hope. That list is really just the tip of the iceberg -- this book is so ripe for discussion.
I think I'm done gushing about THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE, but I could go on.... This book is absolutely amazing, and I just want to end my review with two words -- "Read It!"