Wednesday, May 25, 2011

THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE by Julie Orringer


The first half of this book, which takes place in Paris, ends with the tearful separation of mother and daughter. The second half, which takes place in Hungary and the Ukraine, begins with the tearful reunion of another mother/daughter pair. In fact, there are innumerable separations and reunions throughout the book, as lovers quarrel and reconcile, and conscripted soldiers depart and return, if they survive the torture and inhumane conditions they are forced to endure. The main character is a young Hungarian Jew, Andras Levi, who receives an unexpected scholarship to study architecture in Paris in the late 1930s. There he meets and falls in love with a Hungarian ballet instructor, Klara, with a daughter almost as old as he, and a secret past that prohibits Klara's return to Hungary. Just as he is beginning to earn some kudos for his talent at school, Andras finds that he must return to Hungary, now a Nazi ally, to renew his visa. We learn at that point that he will never reside in Paris again. The second half of the book recounts his several stints in various work camps where atrocities abound, from officers skimming vital food and supplies from the supply trains, to the senseless murder of children in an orphanage. Andras and his friend Mendel create a humorous and semi-subversive newsletter to help bolster morale, and one of Mendel's articles describes a bridge, purportedly designed by Andras, that is invisible to enemy troops. This bridge could be a symbol of any number of things—the connection between loved ones, the link between the past and the present, and the fragile line that divides those lucky enough to survive from those who perish. This period of human history was a mine field, where the path to safety was indeed invisible.

4 comments:

thebookstop said...

I loved this book -- I think the historical detail was a little overwhelming at times but I really like when I learn so much from a historical novel. I had never read a WWII novel set in Hungary and was fascinated by their very different role in the Holocaust.

Patti's Pages said...

I don't think I had ever read a book about Hungary before this one. What a checkered history of oppression they've had--the Medicis, the Nazis, the Communists.

jackie said...

For all the books I have read that take place during WWII I have never read one that took place in Hungary. I absolutely loved this book. When I initially saw the book I was hesitant because it was so long, but I loved every minute of it. Julie Orringer is a great writer.

Patti's Pages said...

Jackie, I totally agree. This book had substance, and yet it was very readable and well-paced. Thanks for commenting!