The Invisible Bridge--Julie Orringer

The Invisible Bridge is a large, challenging, and ultimately satisfying novel about Paris and Hungary one the cusp of and in the crisis of World War II.  Miss Orringer writes well.  Sometimes very well, but sometimes compellingly well.  She draws you into the realm of her story and let's you journey with some very likeable companions through times both good and bad.

Let me start with one flaw--how serious, the individual reader must determine. While reading I had a strong sense of chronic dyskenisia.  I was reading about characters in 1939-1956 and yet had the feeling that these were twenty-first century sensibilities transplanted into mid-twentieth century characters. Many of the adjustments and ideas seemed to reek of the predominant subjectivism and relativism that is so much a part of the post modern world.  This was a small flaw that others did not see and which did not mar the experience of the whole book, but which did gnaw at me from time to time throughout the Paris section of the book.

The story centers around a young Hungarian student who travels to Paris to become an architect, while there he meets another Hungarian expatriate and falls in love.  The story chroninicles their Paris meeting and love and their eventual return to Hungary.  While it could have been a "holocaust" novel, it turns out not to be so much so.  It resembles more One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich--so more a tale of hardship, loss and oppression--how one lives through it and what becomes of one during it.

The writing is throughout well done and there are moments when it is truly impassioned.  However, overall, I came away a little disappointed.  I didn't feel the depth of engagement that I thought the author probably wanted me to feel for her characters.  And I can't identify the flaw that kept me from engaging--whether it is within myself as reader (probably) or in the novelist's work. 

Regardless, that flaw is insufficient for me not to recommend the book highly as a love story, a story of the war, a story of endurance, and a story of survival.  In the course of reading I learned a great many things about Hungary in World War II that I didn't know before and which make sense given the historical configurations of the two wWorld Wars, but frankly was never of much interest to me anyway.  I can say for the novel, that the author managed to make all of this of extreme interest and relevance.  There was not anything about the historical occasions that ever intruded upon the story line.

Recommended --****

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