By: Julie Orringer
My Goodreads Review: 4/5 Stars
“He allowed himself to imagine for the first time that the rest of his life might not be shaped by the misery of his past.”
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer is a story that follows a Hungarian Jewish man, Andras Levi, through his life before, during and after World War II. Part one of this book focuses on Andras’s journey to Paris to study architecture. His life in Paris is filled with incredible adventures, romance and emotional rollercoasters. Then, as war with Germany becomes more likely, Andras returns to Hungary and experiences World War II from his home country.
“Why would a man not argue his own shameful culpability, why would he not crave responsibility for disaster, when the alternative was to feel himself to be nothing more than a speck of human dust?”
The Invisible Bridge sheds light on the struggles Hungarians faced during World War II. As a German ally, their experiences were very different than the rest of Europe. The Hungarian perspective into this war was a bit of a surprise to me; I was unaware that they were allied with Germany and how drastically this affected their involvement in Hitler’s plans. This gave me yet another perspective on this war. The struggles of Hungarian Jews seemed to be vastly different from what was occurring for the rest of European Jews. This part was probably the most interesting; how the Hungarian government treated their Jewish population and dealt with demands from Hitler shows that some resistance to Hitler’s orders was possible, at least at the beginning of the war. This book offered a very different and fresh look into World War II.
The characters in this book were unique and added different perspectives into this time. What was especially made clear were the distinct advantages given to Jewish families with money as opposed to Jewish families without. This, of course, changed in the final years of the war, but it was an essential aspect of the beginnings of war in Hungary. Each set of characters in each part of the book helped add more depth to the story; even if you didn’t love the characters, you understood the time better with their perspectives being included. I think one of the most important aspects was showing the strong anti-Semitic sentiments all over Europe years before the war broke out. This is sometimes overlooked in World War II books, and I think that is disingenuous; Jewish families in Europe had been dealing with antisemitism for centuries, way before Hitler made it part of his political platform. Later you see how all these characters fared in the war, which kept me glued to this book. Overall, the characters and their development were very well done.
The actual story that made up The Invisible Bridge had its ups and downs. Part one, which was primarily set in Paris, I found to be a bit boring. There was far too much time spent on the intricate details of the art of architecture. There were many times that I found myself skimming through some parts because it really didn’t seem relevant to the story. This is also when the reader is introduced to the central love story of the book. The beginnings of this love story, in my opinion, dragged on for far too long. Also, it seemed the first part of this book was quite long, and the other parts, the more exciting parts, in my opinion, were too short. I would have preferred that to have been reversed. Once Andras returns to Hungary, this is when the story took off for me. There was more excitement in the story, more substance to the characters and their lives. I also loved learning about Budapest; if I ever get a chance to visit, I will definitely think about all the different places Andras talked about. Lastly, after all the details given in Part 1, I found the last few events, the last few chapters specifically, to be extremely rushed. It all ended abruptly; I am not sure why this part didn’t have the same detail as the first part.
“There is nothing wrong with you. God asks the most of those he loves best.”
My Final Thoughts:
By the end of the book, I was hooked on the story and the characters. I couldn’t put the book down once I got past part one. It was a great historical fiction novel set in a country that not many people focus on, especially when discussing World War II. I learned something new about another part of the world. Overall, I would recommend this book to people who love a good historical fiction read.
“He had the strange sensation of not knowing who he was, of having travelled off the map of his own existence.”