Recently Pat Schnack recommended Julie Orringer’s debut epic novel, The Invisible Bridge, and talked about the beauty of the prose and wonderful characters. I enjoy historical fiction books with a strong sense of place and good character development, so I was intrigued. Sometimes books come along and leave a lasting impression, forcing the reader to ruminate about events and characters long after the book is done. This is one of those books.
Andras and Tibor Levy are Jewish brothers who grew up in a small village in Hungary. It is the 1930′s and both aspire to do great things. Andras wins a competitive scholarship and goes to Paris to study architecture while Tibor goes to Italy to study medicine. The book focuses on Andras, his adventures and studies in Paris, and the relationship he establishes with the mysterious Klara Morgenstern, a Hungarian ballet instructor nine years older than Andras, who is exiled from Hungary to Paris and has many secrets.
As pre-World War II tension builds in Hungary and Europe, Andras and Tibor are forced back to Hungary when their student visas are not renewed. Both are conscripted into the labor service and, as we know from history, experience horrible conditions, brutality, and extreme discrimination. Orringer’s talents as a writer shine through and the story perseveres. The reader knows history, knows awful things are coming, and yet Orringer weaves the human spirit, hope, friendship, family ties, wonderful characters, and love into an unforgettable story that gives the reader a lot to think about.
I listened to the Invisible Bridge and Arthur Morey’s narration is fabulous. The book is 600 pages and there are 22 discs in the set. Although the book is long, I was sad when it concluded. Julie Orringer is a gifted writer and I look forward to future novels. This is a book that is highly recommended.