THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE is without question the best book I’ve read this year.! I don’t say this lightly. I had begun to wonder if a truly great novel would find its way into my hands. But it was so worth the wait. Julie Orringer has shown us a side of Hungary before WWII and during that we have not seen before. That is not an easy task. There are many novels set in this period, but none do what this one does. I find myself still reeling from the breadth of this magnificent saga. I loved reading the afterward and hearing that this novel came from actual history taken from the author’s grandparent’s story.
The story begins in Budapest in the early1930’s. We meet the Levi’s, a Jewish family with three sons. Andras, the middle son, is getting ready to go to Paris to architecture school on scholarship. Andras leaves for Paris via train shortly after the opening. His head is full of wonder at the opportunity ahead, but even on this trip, he sees first hand at a train stop in Germany, a glimmer of what’s to come when he approaches a vendor for food and sees a sign turning Jews away.
The first half of this sweeping novel is spent setting the tone for the second half. Orringer has outdone herself showing us how deep friendships can be, how deeply family members can feel about each other. She has also given us one of the most tender and durable love stories of all time. All while settling us in for one of the most sweeping and memorable novels of all time.
WWII is one of my favorite topics. But the story of the Hungarian Jews has largely been kept at bay until recently. Partly, I think, because Hungary wansn’t occupied by Germany until the bitter end. Even though heinous atrocities occurred time after time to these loyal souls in Hungary, we know little about these activities. Orringer makes no bones about baring the truths here. The last quarter of this remarkable story is harsh to say the least, but Orringer has given us much to soften it. There is so much good coming out of the horror. The sacrifices of love, honor, family, friendship, and lives are all here. They take tremendous tolls. But survival is what this story is all about.
As Hungary begins to fall into the hands of Nazi Germany, we know what will happen. But Orringer keeps us on the edge of our seats, kept me reading late into the night, made me want to know more about this part of the war. But, mostly, reading this staggering first novel of enormous historical presence, made me want to tell everyone I know to put this amazing book at the top of your must read list for the summer. You will be totally blown away by the writing, the attention to detail, the story itself, and mostly the people who will become parts of you forever. You don’t want to miss this one.