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Tackling 600ish Pages With Ease.

I’ve definitely been quiet here on BookSnob.

God darnit, full-time employment is a real interference to devouring good books at the pace I had been used to these last months. Plus, I’ve been busy reading The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. And it is monster long.

There were hurdles initially to picking the book:

1. 600 pages. Yep, an obvious issue.
2. Hungarian Jews during World War II. Not exactly light summer reading.
3. NYT gave it a very lukewarm response.

Orringer wasn’t new to me. As a shout out to my friend Trish and her husband Chris, they sang the praises of Orringer’s short stories How to Breathe Under Water.

They were right.
Her stories were magnificent.

Plus, I’m a sucker for authors’ first novels (you can do it! keep the faith!). The Invisible Bridge persisted annoyingly on my radar.

When a hometown rag, the SF Chron, gave it a decisive nod, I was sold.

Gladly. Happily. All 587 pages worth.

Maybe I am losing my edge, because my analysis of this book is overtly simple. Compelling plot, great writing.

This is no character study. It is a wide-reaching tale with a quick-moving plot. As a result, I would argue that you don’t really get to know intimately Andras Levi. He is a Hungarian Jew. A symbol of a many people. Yet this anonymity of sorts doesn’t detract. I followed him willingly from a close family unit in Hungary to his seemingly life altering opportunity to go to architecture school in Paris, through his romance with an older woman Klara, from his expulsion from France and return to Hungary and, eventually, to the Hungarian work camps that were established during the war.

It is intense reading, because none of the characters yet have a sense of what Europe is dealing with when it comes to Hitler. It creates a captivating tension as they try to decide if they should leave Paris, leave Hungary…It is so obvious to the reader (go! go! go! go!), but the novel captures well the inherent heartache of leaving behind friends, family, country and how you can rationalize that it is all going to be okay.

Perhaps it is the perspective from Hungary that makes it more interesting and palatable. They were close enough, in harm’s way, but did not face nearly the devastation of lives that their Jewish counterparts across Europe suffered. From the perspective of history alone, you find yourself hopeful that Andras, his brothers, and his parents will escape what we know as an inevitable fate. Yet, at the same time, Orringer brings us to the brink of the concentration camps with her harrowing detail. It is a hard book to put down.

I was encouraged to write this review because I think the book is easy to overlook. She is a relatively unknown author, and the topic and length can be discouraging for a summer read. But oddly, if you are looking for a book that is a captivating page turner, provokes some curiosity about the historical context, and feels effortless in its reading , then The Invisible Bridge deserves your close look.

Eager to hear any other thoughts from those who have read it….

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jim Olesen #

    Regarding the approach to WW II, have you tried Alan Furst’s novels?


    June 20, 2010
    • No I haven’t. Is there a particular one you recommend? Thanks!

      June 21, 2010
  2. Trish #

    KT – I appreciated the shout out when I read your review back in June, but never got around to actually reading the book (despite loving her short stories). Recently I got an iPad, and as I was about to get on a cross-country flight I purchased Invisible Bridge as my first e-book. Perfect, because it’s super long and hardback only. Well, I just finished it today and I am, quite honestly, in mourning. I did not want it to end. I feel lonely without it. It’s the best book I’ve read in a year, maybe longer. I always love a book that takes a subject which has been covered a thousand, a million times but the author somehow makes it fresh, compelling, a page-turner for God’s sakes. This book has made me exhausted, because every night I stay up too late reading. In a book that long, it astonishes me that I could still see the beauty of many, many individual sentences. That I never rushed, but yet felt a sense of suspense (despite, obviously, knowing many of the twists and turns ahead of the characters). It is truly fantastic. Thanks for recognizing it. Now I will read through your recent posts, trying to find my rebound book.

    October 24, 2010

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  1. BookSnob’s Best Reads 2010–Or Your Money Back Guaranteed « BookSnob.

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