Customer Review

368 of 392 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful and authentic look into a dark time, April 24, 2010
This review is from: The Invisible Bridge (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
World War II and the Holocaust have been covered so extensively in so many formats, and yet there are so many under represented stories. This book takes up one of these side stories, the story Jews in Hungary, that didn't make the textbooks or documentaries. And unlike textbook or documentary coverage, it brings the day-to-day realities of the war to life and will touch you in the way, only a personal story can.

Obviously this is a historical fiction, which is different from a primary source, but the writing is authentic and either very well researched or edited by a very knowledgeable historian. So many historical fiction books lose credibility on historic slips, but this book never does. When a new radio is described, it is Bakelite, not plastic. The words painted vivid pictures that had me craving croissants in Paris and Paprika and Potato dumplings in Hungary.

But the power of this book is that it will make you appreciate your warm bed, your clean sheets and each meal and trip to the grocery store by portraying what it was like when all these things were unavailable. It has been hard to get all of these deprivations out of my head since I finished the book. I have read remarkably few books that describe the hunger of those living in Europe as eloquently as this book.

It did take me a while to get into this book. 600 pages is pretty intimidating and it is dense in Jewish and Hungarian names, but after 100 pages I was hooked and drug along. The writing is immensely readable and I felt a connection to the characters (enough so that I have to admit I flipped to the back to make sure at least someone made it through.) The book culminated in a marathon session when I just couldn't put it down. It's a powerful book that is high on my annual recommendation list.

I loved this book for many of the reasons that I loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Random House Reader's Circle) because it shone light on a forgotten war story and it felt so authentic. Great book.
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Comments

Tracked by 6 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 18 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 5, 2010 11:12:11 AM PDT
Marvelous review.

Posted on Jul 20, 2010 10:13:05 PM PDT
Buzz says:
Loved the book and the review. This is really picky, but I thought I'd mention it anyway in order to get someone's opinion. In the scene where the guards were diverting medical supplied meant for the front, Orringer mentions "antibiotics" as among the diverted items. According to my dictionary, antibiotics didn't come into the English language until 1943, and this scene probably took place in 1942. Regardless, it hardly seems likely that the Hungarian government was shipping antibiotics to its troops at any time during WWII.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2010 10:47:19 PM PDT
Bryan Newman says:
Thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2010 11:01:54 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 22, 2010 11:03:44 PM PDT
Bryan Newman says:
I also feel a little uncomfortable with the use of word "antibiotic" if used in dialog during that time period. In journals and letters from American GI's the word "Sulfa" is used a lot which was an early antibiotic which was widely available and widely manufactured. I don't think antibiotic would be the popular word at the time but can't say for sure. I assume that the Hungarian Army had some sulfa at the onset of the war, but I don't know that they had much or if it was ever manufactured in Hungary.

I think I just glossed over it, assuming the passage was talking about sulfa. I'm picky like that too, things like that kind of bug me. If she had said penicillin I don't think I would have trusted any historical fact she included. So I appreciate that the book seems well researched.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 22, 2010 12:05:03 PM PST
Pietr Hitzig says:
Good point. You might like to see the ngram for the salient words. http://xrl.in/6vm6

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 22, 2010 4:05:02 PM PST
Bryan Newman says:
Wow, what a great tool. Thanks for pointing it out to me.

Posted on Feb 5, 2011 10:18:22 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 5, 2011 10:23:11 PM PST
Jack Rice says:
Obviously Vine members only have to flog books.

"I was hooked and drug along...."

". . . and it felt so authentic."

They certainly don't have to be literate.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 5, 2011 10:52:19 PM PST
Bryan Newman says:
:) No they don't, but they are allowed to enjoy reading.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 6, 2011 10:14:26 AM PST
Actually, antibiotics did exist. However, all the supplies were being sent to the war fronts on both sides and there was a shortage for civilian patients. They had sulfa drugs already some in the form of sulfa powder that was placed topically on the wounds. I believe they might have had penicillan, but I am not sure. I know of someone who died of appenidicitus in the U.S. in 1942 because there was no supply of existing antibiotics available. Everything was being sent to the military.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 6, 2011 10:17:46 AM PST
I agree with you that sulfa was widely available before the war. There were some large pharmeceutical plants in Germany who probably supplied all the axis powers including Hungary. Bayer of Bayer aspirin fame was one such company though I do not know if they ever produced antibiotics. Germany has long supplied the world with optical glass, surgical instruments, medical equipment and pharmeceuticals of excellent quality.
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