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Customer Review

96 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A romantic elegy to Hungarian Jewry in historical fiction, June 21, 2010
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This review is from: The Invisible Bridge (Hardcover)
If it is an author's highest goal to fully absorb her reader into the novel, then Julie Orringer's "The Invisible Bridge" stands as a marvel. When her characters joyed, I smiled. When they faced terror, my mouth went dry and my breath grew short. As they suffered, I found myself pushing back tears. As a reader I am rarely sentimental, yet something here seized my heart, and through almost 600 pages, this author artfully cupped it in her hands.

As Europe races towards war, a young Jew young Andras Levi travels to Paris to study architecture. Through school where he is a star, and the theatre where he works, Andras meets a parade of colorful characters. When set up with a girl, he instead falls in love with her mother, Klara. The two become swept up in a passionate affair, and in time she reveals the dark secret which forced her to flee Hungary sixteen years earlier. Orringer weaves a web of gripping digressive sub-plots, each of which pulls us along, but there is never any real doubt where these characters will end up -- Andras and Klara will spend the war back in their native Hungary.

With the library of novels written describing the Holocaust in Poland and Germany, and more seeming to appear every day, I found it fascinating to read Orringer's well researched descriptions of the experience of Hungarian Jews. Hated by the Fascist Arrow Cross Party, yet "protected" from Hitler by the regent Horthy they suffered abuse, humiliation, and often murder, but through much of the war were spared becoming grist for the mill of Nazi genocide. Hungarian Jews, as the last of Europe's great communities to be destroyed, as well as being perhaps the least considered, here receives a very fine elegy from the descendant of one survivor.

At heart, "The Invisible Bridge" is a war romance, much in the vain of "The English Patient" or even more Halprin's superb "A Soldier of the Great War." As such, one often has to suspend disbelief and the prose can at time graze against the purple. Coincidences abound. Our hero Andras, may indeed be too good to be true, though he does suffer from an excess of intellectual pride and a certain naïveté. Yet if you are someone inclined towards historical romances, such things are besides the point; you read on because you are compelled to do so, to see what becomes of these people, to pray that you see them safely and happily to the end. This would be an evocative piece of fiction even if it weren't Orringer's first novel. As such, it is simply extraordinary.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 27, 2011, 11:30:12 AM PST
I loved this book. It is just so hard to find one to follow it. I have read several and nothing can compare. I strongly suggest that everyone pick it up, because it is a wonderful journey.

Judy Henning

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 21, 2015, 6:50:37 PM PDT
Steven Reads says:
I totally agree with this reviewer's summation. I could not have felt any closer to these characters. Ms. Orringer has an amazing talent to bring that to her writing. I look forward to her next novel.
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Location: Sacramento, CA USA

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