The Invisible Bridge: Book summary and reviews of The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

The Invisible Bridge

By Julie Orringer

The Invisible Bridge
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  • Published in USA  May 2010,
    624 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Orringer's triumphant novel is as much a lucid reminder of a time not so far away as it is a luminous story about the redemptive power of love." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. The early sections set in Paris, in particular, are completely absorbing, and if sometimes the emotional force of this long, long book gets lost in the march of events, it is still an astonishing achievement." - Booklist

"Unfortunately, it also has a paint-by-the-numbers feel, as if the author were working too hard to get through every point of the story she's envisioned." - Library Journal

"To bring an entire lost world ... to vivid life between the covers of a novel is an accomplishment; to invest that world, and everyone who inhabits it, with a soul, as Julie Orringer does in The Invisible Bridge, takes something more like genius." - Michael Chabon

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by SAM
Building and Breaking
I think The Invisible Bridge is a book worth reading, but not a book without flaws. I’m not even exactly sure how to characterize my reaction. This could be one of those books that gets better as it percolates.

First, I read a lot about WWII, especially regarding the European theater, both fiction and non-fiction. Same for the holocaust itself. Even so, this book reminded me of things that are often obscure, and invoked some things that I didn’t know or had forgotten. That alone made it worthwhile for me. The story is told from a Hungarian point of view, which is far from the norm and that slant was interesting.

Before I bought the book, I read a review that said Orringer had written a novel that was European in approach, therefore bordering on brilliant, rather than American. I’m not sure I know, or if the reviewer knows, what an American novel is, but the implication was that this book is more in depth and fleshed out than most ‘American’ books. In my experience, length and depth in a novel occur when there is intent for them to, even among American authors. When authors are novel-mills, under contract for a book per year, not so much. Same for American readers – audiences exist for both “beach reads” and more serious (literature) books. So, while that critique might be a bit haughty (I think it came from a foreign newspaper), it does describe the book in a way that tells something about what it will be like to read.

In the same vein, a number of reviewers compared it to Dr. Zhivago. Those comparisons occurred to me also. The books are similar. Grammatically (as opposed to 'literarily') the books differ because they were written a close to a century apart and because they were written in different languages. 'Literarily', they certainly reflect the difference in perspective you expect when authors come from two different centuries.

The narrative is quite readable. The prose isn’t so complicated as to be hard to follow, but there is plenty of character development and extra description. It is verbiage that isn’t necessary for a book you would read just for entertainment, but is pleasant if your plan is to spend more than an afternoon with a book. I found it easy to put down, but not in the sense I didn’t want to read it. It was a pleasure to know that so many pages were left I couldn’t finish it in one day, and wasn’t compelled to try, and always enjoyed picking it up again. Sometimes I could read for hours, and sometimes just a short time.

At first, the story was only slightly compelling for me. I found it very different from many holocaust books, both fiction and non-fiction, and it wasn’t until the final pages that I realized why. It was much less intense to read than many, but there was just something that seemed to be right under the surface that was waiting, waiting… When I realized the book was inspired by the author’s own grandparents it was easier to understand. So, even though the characters made all the same mistakes that were made by many people (Jews in particular) at that time, instead of the intensity of the tragedy, it was mitigated and muted by her personal knowledge of the people. That closeness to the characters compelled her to insert some emotional distance when she described the horrors.

It also has a ‘happier’ ending than many holocaust books. By definition, since the book is inspired by the author’s grandparents, you know at least some of the main characters survived.

And, even though I referred to the holocaust a number of times, the book is much more than just one more holocaust novel. Though it’s fiction, it really is a chronology of some of its characters so there’s also something of a story aspect that is very prevalent.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Kris
Readers Remorse!
All of us "book-lovers" know the sad feeling of satisfaction upon completion of a captivating novel! Truly, The Invisible Bridge embodies the very best of current historical fiction. The themes of friendship, love and family are weaved through the atrocities of World War II with grace and respect. I am left with an admiration for the strength and resolve of the characters as well as a sincere sense of gratitude to the author for her tale. I was reminded of the importance of simple acts of kindness as well as the enduring bonds of family and friends.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Frank Fleischer
The Invisible Bridge
I don't remember the last time while reading a book I interrupted my wife so many times to read her an exceptional phrase, sentence or paragraph. This book has rekindled my ultimate faith in the potential of human nature for good.

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Julie Orringer is the author of the award-winning short-story collection How to Breathe Underwater, which was a New York Times Notable Book. She is the winner of The Paris Review's Discovery Prize and the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Stanford University, and the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. She lives in Brooklyn, where she is researching a new novel.

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