Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Invisible Bridge

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Invisible Bridge

Article excerpt

From Paris to Hungary, this epic novel follows the fates of a pair of lovers and their families as World War II sweeps across Europe.

No one encountering The Invisible Bridge would ever suspect Julie

Orringer of being a short-story writer. The debut novel of the "How

to Breathe Underwater" author clocks in at a whopping 624 pages,

and there's nothing minimalist about either its breadth or goals.

The future is looking up for Andras Levi. Unable to study

architecture in Hungary because he is Jewish, he is instead on his

way to Paris, enrolled at the Ecole Speciale on a scholarship. In

his pocket is a letter addressed to "Morgenstern," given to him

to mail by a well-to-do Jewish family; on the train, a businessman

buys him a pretzel. (This is the kind of book where even such

seemingly minor contact will come to have ramifications later.)

Once in Paris, not only does he become the protege of a kind

instructor who teaches him French and secures entrance to medical

school for his older brother, but Le Corbusier admires his work.

Unfortunately for Andras, the year is 1937, and readers are aware

his good fortune is all too temporary. The first sign of things to

come is when his scholarship is summarily canceled. A professor is

cajoled into putting up half the money, and Andras works tirelessly

at a theater for the rest, first as a gopher, then as a set designer.

This being Paris, he also falls in love. Invited to dinner at the

home of a strong-minded teenaged girl, Andras is instead smitten with

her mother, a ballet instructor in her early 30s. Claire Morgenstern,

it turns out, is the recipient of the mysterious letter and is really

Hungarian Klara Hasz. She is living in exile in France and, for

reasons Orringer gradually reveals, can't risk returning to

Budapest without endangering herself and her family.

Andras's gentle brother Tibor, meanwhile, has his own love story,

which plays out quietly in the background, while at home, their

youngest brother Matyas rants at being left behind and takes up

tap-dancing. …

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