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How do the twists and turns of fortune help to create a sense of the extraordinary time in which the novel is set? The Holocaust and other murderous confrontations between ethnic groups can challenge the belief in God. He had designed the cosmos and thrown its doors open to man, and man had moved in. Have you read or heard explanations of why terrible events come to pass that more closely reflect your personal beliefs?

Did the book present information about the United States and its allies that surprised you? Did it affect your views on Zionism and the Jewish emigration to Palestine? Did it deepen your understanding of the causes and the course of the war? What does the epilogue convey about the postwar period and the links among past, present, and future?

What does it express about individuals caught in the flow of history and the forces that determine their fates? For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center e-newsletter, visit www. Literary Fiction Historical Fiction print.

Julie Orringer - Wikipedia

Julie Orringer, the author of the bestselling short-story collection How to Breathe Underwater , brings their world to life with astonishing power and insight. Andras has a scholarship at architecture school in Paris, while Tibor remains in Hungary until he too is granted entrance to medical school in Italy. He had experienced anti-Semitism in Hungary and feels it in Paris as well, but when a new Hungarian law forbids granting scholarships to Jews studying abroad, he comes face-to-face with the tide of ethnic hatred spreading throughout Europe.

Tibor, forced to leave Italy when his visa expires, returns to Hungary with his Italian wife. Amid reports of mass killings of Jews in Eastern Europe, they grasp at the possibility of emigrating to Palestine. But their dream of escape seems to perish, first in when Andras is deported to the Ukraine and then finally in when German troops flood into Hungary and impose their virulent anti-Semitic agenda. Julie Orringer is a good writer. She is clearly an intelligent one, one who values the rich narrative sprawl of a well-populated epic, and the research evident in this novel is remarkable.

She would make a fantastic Imagist poet. She boasts a real command of diction, reminding me of Jonathan Franzen or Michael Chabon with her enviable ability to insert specific, intelligent vocabulary into passages without sounding affected. The use of architecture as a metaphor for her craft was always clever. And then there are the characters. Oh Lordy Lord, those characters. Well, nearly every character in this novel was a sort of secularized, Judaistic rendition of that obnoxious and predictable trope.

The depiction of homosexuality in this book was so insulting and dated you would think Orringer was a freshman in high school who just emerged doe-eyed with earnestness from a civics class on tolerance. Gay characters are sensitive, easily identifiable They like silk! I would have paid anything other than the list price for this damn book for a full subplot with Ben Yakov weighing his homophobia against his sense of Jewish fraternity after the assault Lemarque made on Polaner and hence, their community.

Because, you know, that would have been actually interesting. Does Lucia ever get angry? Orringer never gets inside her characters. Not one of them feels like a living, thinking human. The evil takes place largely behind the scenes, and every military officer Andras encounters is the second coming of Oskar Schindler. This is a plot device that loses all emotional impact the eleventh time it happens. Saints die, and in fact we expect it of them. Real saints have their passions, their madnesses, their rages and inconsistencies.

The characters of The Invisible Bridge are their illustrated counterparts in a Sunday School classroom. Orringer wants to borrow the gravitas from the setting, from every other book or film or account we know about that wretched hell rotting near the center of the twentieth century without having the courage to show us anything truly dark, and the story becomes thoroughly suspenseless. Does anyone doubt for a single page that Andras and Klara would end up together with both children, all healed and alive??

I could see that Color-Purple-rip-off of a tearful reunion coming from so far away it was like it was being ushered through the pages by a goddamned Mardi Gras parade. She puts it everywhere. These scenes work if you get one or two of them.

Orringer tries to milk one out of nearly every chapter. After a while I felt Pavlovically conditioned to expect good news whenever anything bad happened Andras has to get a new dangerous job looking for mines? Beloved family members are the first people you learn to mythologize and the last people you see clearly. Excellent for my first read of the year. An epic story of WWII, building on the coming of age tale of a young Hungarian man about to travel to Paris to begin his studies to become an architect.

The year is So much is about to happen, is actually in the initial stages of development throughout Europe. These changes will alter history for this student, Andras, his family, his friends, his nation, and ultimately much of the world. Orringer provides a wonderfully full story, rich Excellent for my first read of the year.

Orringer provides a wonderfully full story, rich in detail new to me in spite of prior knowledge of the era. Her writing is up to the challenge and was, at times, spellbinding. I found myself thinking of Dr Zhivago as I read of some of the descriptions of Hungarian towns and rural camps. All in all, The Invisible Bridge is one of those rare books that has lived up to the advance rave reviews I'd read and heard in the past. I highly recommend it. View all 43 comments. This is that movie, but as a book. And instead of lasting two or three hours, it's however long it takes you to read pages.

I feel a little bad about giving this book two stars.

Love And Darkness At The Edge Of World War II

I really enjoyed about half of this book. It's an epic in the David Lean sense of the word. If it was published in the '50s, he would have directed it right after he made Dr. Wartime romance, and all that those words entail. And the first half, which is all setup, I actually really enjoyed. We meet our lead characters, architectural student Andras and his mysterious love interest Klara, who themselves meet cute mysterious letters are involved in Paris in and carry on a tortured romance for the ages.

It's pretty much basically Twilight: We can't be together! We can never be! Make me into a vampire! Reading this so made me want to travel back in time and be a bohemian in Paris. You know, back when poor people could afford to live in the Latin Quarter. Oh, but then the war starts, and you really start to feel those pages. The first half covers a a bit over a year in pages, but the last cram in the entire war, and things quickly dissolve into one clearly factual, historically accurate outrage after another work camp, worse work camp, even worse work camp, taken away on trains in the night, etc.

By the end, I honestly could not wait to be done with it. Aside from Andras and Klara, the cast of characters is pretty flat, and reading all the horrors they suffer through is oddly numbing instead of provoking. I mean, I learned a lot about Hungary during the Holocaust, how the Jews were relatively safe most of the war though the men were sent to labor camps, for the most part the population lived freely in the country and avoided the death camps , how things quickly became unimaginably horrible only a few months before Hitler's death.

But all the repetitive DETAIL, ugh, it just totally removes all feeling from the story, which is odd because the epilogue makes it pretty clear this is the story of the author's family. The carefully crafted prose is so crammed full it feels turgid instead of poetic, and it's doubly distracting because you can feel it reaching for poetry, and getting a little purple in the process. So yeah, 2 stars. But I wouldn't suggest reading it or anything.

It bears similarities to other war sagas such as Birdsong and All the Light We Cannot See , but the focus on the Hungarian Jewish experience was new for me. Even in labor camps, there are flashes of levity, like the satirical newspapers that Andras and a friend distribute among their fellow conscripts, while the knowledge that the family line continues into the present day provides a hopeful ending. This is a flawless blend of family legend, wider history, and a good old-fashioned love story.

I read the first 70 pages on the plane back from America but would have liked to find more excuses to read great big chunks of it at once. Sinking deep into an armchair with a doorstopper is a perfect summer activity though also winter … any time, really. It had become as natural to him as breathing.

View all 4 comments. I was pages into this book, when I realized the four Jewish young men were still in Paris, nothing of significance was happening, and the war had not yet begun. I was so bored at this point that I found myself anxiously awaiting the Holocaust. I am totally missing something in this book. I guess I dont find any of the characters more than cardboard, and the central love story unconvincing, and d I was pages into this book, when I realized the four Jewish young men were still in Paris, nothing of significance was happening, and the war had not yet begun.

I guess I dont find any of the characters more than cardboard, and the central love story unconvincing, and dare I say it silly. This book came highly recommended, and I had been very much looking forward to reading it, so I am all the more disappointed. View all 5 comments. Put it at the top of your pile of books to read. Order it at the library NOW or buy it. You will not regret this purchase! Me, I wish I had bought a prettier edition. This book never lags and it is pages long. Lots happens, the plot is chock full with this and that. Me, I don't usually go for plot driven books, but this book has everything.

History is so wonderfully interwoven into the primary characters' lives that the history book facts take on a personal dimension. You learn about what happened in Hungary before, during and immediately after WW2. You see, hear and smell Paris and Budapest. You learn about architectural names and theories.

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You learn about ballet in Hungary during this time period. Even though the writing is plot oriented it also sometimes focuses on the philosophical. What happened felt very real. The momentum builds and builds and you simply cannot put the book down. Even though much of what happens is horrendous, the book does not leave the reader feeling sad and without hope. This book deserves all the hype that currently surrounds it!

I must pay attention when you tell me to read a book. Here is just one example of lines that get me thinking. Why am I so different?! To the question of whether perhaps a couple should emigrate to the US, the reply is: Our families are here. And it is hard to imagine starting another life in a strange country.

Although such a move IS very difficult it is also exciting and wonderful. I love learning about another culture. The best way to do that is to plop yourself down into that foreign place. Family relationships are strong enough to allow one to do this. You will always love each other, and correspondence is possible and then when you return there is so much to share. This author knows how to tell a story. You are captivated; you want to know how each character is going to deal with what destiny throws at them!

Secondly, ideas are expressed and they get you thinking….. The reader cannot help but ask himself what he would do in such a situation. Thirdly the description of cities is fantastic. You feel as though you are there too! Finally there is an abundance of interesting information about architecture, history, dance….. How has the author collected such a wide span of ingredients? She seems to really KNOW each subject well. And lastly it is funny sometimes what she dreams up for these characters to do. They print a newspaper, but to know what is in this paper you have to read the book.

It is just too funny! You laugh and you cry and you hold your breath. It all seems believable! This book is like sinking into a cozy armchair and then into a whole other world. Back to the book, back to Andras and Paris and the Quartier Latin! I opened this book with trepidation — it is almost pages long, a big hunker of a book. It has gotten rave reviews, but will I like it?! The eldest, Tibor, remains currently in Budapest awaiting a scholarship so he can begin medical studies in Modena, Italy. Already Andras has received a mysterious letter to deliver to a Monsieur C.

At the moment Andras only wishes he had paid more attention during his two years studying French. Well, he has arrived in Paris. Paris is picturesquely described, its people, its streets and the high ceiling apartments adorned with ornate caste-iron balconies and zinc mansards. Children sailed elegant miniature boats in the fountain….. There were green benches and close-clipped limes, a carousel with painted horses…. Already he felt a little more Parisian than he had when he first arrived. He had his apartment key on a cord around his neck, a copy of l'Oeuvre under his arm: Also well described is the mounting political tension, prior to WW2.

It is now View all 87 comments. Bloated length in surplus of pages! Zhivago as imagined by a hip Brooklyn cutie. Reviews have been hyperbolically ecstatic, but why? I guess there's stuff to admire here: Indeed, literary Oscar-bait is the most succinct phrase I can think of to describe Orringer's book: At all times, this book is about its surface story and nothing else. We follow the travails of a young Jewish Hungarian man as he moves to Paris to study architecture, falls in love with an older woman a woman with a mysterious past!

OK, so you can glibly reduce any narrative to its barest plot outline and make it sound silly. But in this case, that's pretty much all there is —the rest is an endless barrage of details rendered in blandly utilitarian prose. No subtext, all text—and so goddamn much of it! Every major character is kind and well-behaved, while unkind characters are relegated to marginal villainy; Orringer has no room for moral ambiguity. Look, I know I'm being harsh, but the fact is that you've heard this story before, and when Orringer drags out the old "we must tell the stories of the Holocaust so future generations will understand" chestnut, well—sure, that logic is unassailable vis-a-vis education and intra-family storytelling, but it doesn't necessarily apply to art anymore.

If you're going to tell a story about the suffering of Jews during WWII, you had better find a fresh angle. One reason why Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds was such a breath of fresh air was QT's refusal to treat his sacrosanct material with kid gloves—the movie plays more like a Spaghetti Western than a respectable middlebrow product, and that unexpected perspective allowed him to tell a story with more verve and poignance in any one of its five chapters than in the whole of The Invisible Bridge.

To cite just one example, Orringer seems afraid of actually writing about death, despite her chosen milieu; she shoehorns nearly all of the story's tragic events into a single brief chapter, glossing over them quickly on the way to the forthcoming happy reunion. Contrast this with the unforgettable scene in Basterds where Shoshanna and Zoller meet their fates in the projection booth. Well, I'm talking about works from two different mediums here, so yeah, kind of.

But Tarantino's film ought to be the standard-bearer for any contemporary artist who wants to tell a story about Jews in World War II. And this book doesn't measure up. Listen, I'm not heartless, and the Jews are my people. Identity-related empathy is probably what kept me reading to the finish line. Scattered moments and passages in this book affected me. But that has virtually nothing to do with Orringer's artistry and everything to do with being made to face some of history's ugly truths. Which I don't need a mediocre page novel to remind me of, really. What, you thought I was clever enough to come up with a gem like that myself?

View all 14 comments. May 30, Esil rated it it was amazing. I had read great review of this book and waited a long time with anticipation for this book to come out as a trade paperback. I was not disappointed. I had trouble putting it down, reading its over page in a week--a busy work week at that. I liked the characters and the story. I did not know much about Hungary's role during the war other than that many Jews I had read great review of this book and waited a long time with anticipation for this book to come out as a trade paperback.

I did not know much about Hungary's role during the war other than that many Jews had been killed. Orringer conveyed the horror and absurdity of the war from a specific historical point of view and from a very human point of view. Aug 10, Karen Mundo rated it it was amazing.

There are some books that you read and forget about. I enjoy reading author Janet Evanovich for one and have read every new Stephanie Plum but can't recall the plot a week later. Then there are some, like The Invisible Bridge, that linger and linger. IMHO, the book makes me think about "what if everything were to suddenly change? How could I maint There are some books that you read and forget about.

How could I maintain my humanity in the face of indifferent evil? The evil might not exactly be indifferent since it was sincerely dedicated to my extermination, but perhaps indifferent to my thoughts, feelings and pain? There have been scores of books that have addressed this topic but this one somehow resonated more than the others.

Perhaps it was because their prewar lives seemed so familiar and normal. I am not Jewish, btw, but always wondered if I could have survived those experiences and survived without losing all compassion? The Invisible Bridge might not be the novel that Orringer's fans were expecting, but it's every bit as powerful and haunting as her debut.

She's no longer just a writer to watch — she's a writer to follow, and one whose talent, daring and compassion are beginning to look boundless. That year, in her studio on the rue de Sevigne, Claire Morgenstern had taught some ninety-five girls between the ages of eight and fourteen, three of the oldest of whom would soon depart for professional training with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

She had been preparing the children for the Spectacle d'Hiver for two months now; the costumes were ready, the young dancers schooled in the ways of snowflakes, sugarplums, and swans, the winter-garden scenery in readiness. That week Andras's advertising poster appeared all over town: Every time he saw it -- on the way to school, on the wall opposite the Blue Dove, at the bakery -- he heard Madame Morgenstern saying You'll come, won't you?

By Wednesday, the evening of the dress rehearsal, he felt he couldn't wait another day to see her. He arrived at the Sarah-Bernhardt at his usual hour, carrying a large plum cake for the coffee table. The corridors backstage were thronged with girls in white and silver tulle; they surged around him, blizzardlike, as he slipped into the backstage corner where the coffee table was arranged. With his pocketknife he cut the plum cake into a raft of little pieces.

A group of girls in snowflake costumes clustered at the edges of the curtain, waiting for their entrance. As they tiptoed in place, they cast interested glances at the coffee table and the cake. Andras could hear a stage manager calling for the next group of dancers. Madame Morgenstern -- Klara, as Madame Gerard called her -- was nowhere to be seen. He watched from the wings as the little girls danced their snowflake dance. The girl whose father had come late was among that group of children; when she ran back into the wings after her dance, she called to Andras and showed him that she had a new pair of glasses, this one with flexible wire arms that curled around the backs of her ears.

They wouldn't fall off while she danced, she explained. As she kicked into a pirouette to demonstrate, he heard Madame Morgenstern's laugh behind him. Andras allowed himself a swift look at her. She was dressed in practice clothes, her dark hair twisted close against her head. The girl rolled her eyes at Madame Morgenstern and raced to the coffee table, where the other snowflakes were devouring the plum cake. I don't allow sweets backstage. The cake was dense and golden, its top studded with halved mirabelles. Take some for yourself, at least. I've got to get the next group of girls onstage.

He was ready to say I'll be off now, ready to leave her to the rehearsal, but then he thought of his empty room, and the long hours that lay between that night and the next, and the blank expanse of time that stretched into the future beyond Thursday -- time when he'd have no excuse to see her. He raised his eyes to hers.

She rubbed the tops of her arms as if she'd gotten a chill. And before she could say no again, he turned and went down the backstage hallway and out into the white December evening. The Cafe Bedouin was a dark place, its leather upholstery cracked, its blue velvet draperies lavendered with age.

Behind the bar stood rows of dusty cut-glass bottles, relics of an earlier age of drinking. Andras arrived there an hour before the time he'd mentioned, already sick with impatience, disbelieving what he'd done. Had he really asked her to have a drink with him? Called her by her first name, in its intimate-seeming Hungarian form? Spoken to her as though his feelings might be acceptable, might even be returned? What did he expect would happen now? If she came, it would only be to confirm that he'd acted inappropriately, and perhaps to tell him she could no longer admit him to her house on Sunday afternoons.

At the same time he was certain she'd known his feelings for weeks now, must have known since the day they'd gone skating in the Bois de Vincennes.