Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Invisible Bridge

The Invisible Bridge was a great book. It chronicles the life of Andras, and to a lesser extent his brother Tibor, Levi and their lives through the Second World War. It's a page-turner of a plot, full of ups and downs of fortune, and also thought provoking.

The book opens on the unexpected good fortune of Levi, who has just won a scholarship to attend architecture school in Paris. Soon his brother Tibor is off to Italy to study medicine, while a third brother stays in Hungary and features only lightly in the story. A promising future might appear to await the two young men from a modest family background in a village outside Budapest.

But we know life is not going to be easy for two Jewish-Hungarian brothers on the eve of the Second World War. The story moves from Paris back to Budapest and on to war locales, always interleaving the stories of the two brothers.

Persecution and uncertainty face off against their determination and resilience, and the many acts of kindness and support they meet along the way. As I read it, I couldn't help wondering if I would have the resilience to survive what they did, and if I'd have the courage to be one of the people who held out a hand to help them sometimes at considerable risk to themselves.

This is Julie Orringer's first novel, and it's quite an accomplishment to produce such a book on your first try. Struggle, love, history, suspense - this novel has it all. It was named among Amazon's Best Books for May 2010; it was an Amazon email that alerted me to it.

Because of The Invisible Bridge, I was inspired to read her previous book of short stories How to Breathe Underwater. I would not highly recommend that book, although it received many awards. Perhaps it's just because I prefer novels to short stories.

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