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Julie Orringer’s astonishing first novel—eagerly awaited since the publication of her heralded best-selling short-story collection, How to Breathe Underwater (“Fiercely beautiful”—The New York Times)—is a grand love story and an epic tale of three brothers whose lives are torn apart by war.
Paris, 1937. Andras Lévi, a Hungarian Jewish architecture student, arrives from Budapest with a scholarship, a single suitcase, and a mysterious letter he has promised to deliver to C. Morgenstern on the rue de Sévigné. As he becomes involved with the letter’s recipient, his elder brother takes up medical studies in Modena, their younger brother leaves school for the stage—and Europe’s unfolding tragedy sends each of their lives into terrifying uncertainty. From the Hungarian village of Konyár to the grand opera houses of Budapest and Paris, from the lonely chill of Andras’s garret to the enduring passion he discovers on the rue de Sévigné, from the despair of a Carpathian winter to an unimaginable life in forced labor camps and beyond, The Invisible Bridge tells the unforgettable story of brothers bound by history and love, of a marriage tested by disaster, of a Jewish family’s struggle against annihilation, and of the dangerous power of art in a time of war.
“The Invisible Bridge deserves to be praised. It takes the introspective themes we’ve loved so well in American literature—from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself to A. M. Homes’s Music for Torching—and points them in a different direction. . . . Rendered in sweeping, epic fashion . . . a close look at the terrible ways that enormous historical events can affect individual lives. . . . The strength of The Invisible Bridge lies in Orringer’s ability to make us care so deeply about the people of her all-too-real fictional world.” —Andrew Ervin, The New York Times Book Review
“This is a big, old-fashioned love story set against the backdrop of war—the type Tolstoy might have scratched out with a gnawed pencil—but it’s also a modern riff on architecture, existentialism, and how people persist in making and remaking their lives when ‘the world has lost its mind’. . . . The romantic exploits in Paris . . . are breathy and gilded, yet they never spill over completely into melodrama. . . . The small miracles that abound in Orringer’s novel make a strong argument that literature is the best way to get at the core of something in absentia.” —Gregg LaGambina, The A. V. Club (Grade: A)
“Evocative.... [U]ses history as a backdrop to her story’s grand passions with a sweep akin to that of Dr. Zhivago. . . . The horrors of war never become Ms. Orringer’s primary subject. She devotes far more attention to conveying the intricacies of Jewish life . . . writing with both granddaughterly reverence and commanding authority.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“A Tolstoy-esque novel of the Holocaust, one that tracks the passage of quotidian life and the flutter of the human heart against the implacable roil of history. The Invisible Bridge brings the pre- and early-World War II period to life in a way I can only compare to Suite Francaise, which was actually written at that time. . . . Meanwhile, the love story that unfolds in Orringer’s pages is as romantic as Doctor Zhivago, and the seamless, edifying integration of truckloads of historical and topical research (architecture, ballet, mid-century Paris neighborhoods) brings to mind Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. . . . I was stunned, then awed.” —Marion Winik, Newsday
“Julie Orringer’s sense of history, her keen eye for the smallest of details, her in-depth characterizations, help make her first novel, The Invisible Bridge, an astonishing read. But what is arguably best about this epic story of Hungarian Jews in the mid-20th century is the author’s keen sense of pace and storytelling that unfurls the 602 pages with breathtaking (and heartbreaking) speed.” —Rege Behe, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
“Orringer's stunning first novel far exceeds the expectations generated by her much-lauded debut collection, How to Breath Underwater. . . . Orringer's triumphant novel is as much a lucid reminder of a time not so far away as it is a luminous story about the redemptive power of love.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"To bring an entire lost world--its sights, its smells, its heartaches, raptures and terrors--to vivid life between the covers of a novel is an accomplishment; to invest that world, and everyone who inhabits it, with a soul, as Julie Orringer does in The Invisible Bridge, takes something more like genius." —Michael Chabon
"The sheer joy of storytelling fills each moment of Orringer's novel. Like Tolstoy and Eliot's work, it transports us completely into its world--that of young Andras, his friends, family and loves--and a landscape of war and redemption. Thrilling, tender, and terrifying; a glorious reminder of how books can change our lives. It is the novel of the year." —Andrew Sean Greer
“Truly breathtaking . . . gloriously rendered . . . a sensual feast. . . . I didn’t want it to end.” —Debra Spark, San Francisco Chronicle
“Bold, ambitious . . . beautiful, breathtaking and vital. . . . Orringer’s prose is unfaltering, and she shows remarkable skill in weaving together the two main sections of the novel—the first part, a coming-of-age story reminiscent of early parts of W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage; and the second part, a tense account of a family threatened with war and hatred, which recalls the heroic, romantic realism of Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. . . . 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.” —Michael Schaub, NPR.org
“Orringer avoids bathos and has a gift for re-creating distant times and places: a Paris suffused with the scent of paprikas and the sounds of American jazz, the camraderies and cruelties of the work camps. The ticking clock of history keeps it urgent and moving forward, and the result is, against all odds, a Holocaust page-turner. Buy it.” —New York magazine
“Intricately layered. . . . We have seen images like these . . . in the literature of eyewitnesses such as Elie Wiesel and Imre Kertész. . . . [Orringer makes] brilliant use of a deliberately old-fashioned realism to define individual fates engulfed by history’s deadly onrush. . . . With its moving acknowledgment of the gap between what’s been lost and what can be imagined, this remarkably accomplished first novel is itself, in the continuing stream of Holocaust literature, an invisible bridge.” —Donna Rifkind, The Washington Post Book World
“A straightforward storyteller, [Orringer] captures our attention with her sympathetic characters and lets her deft handling of time and place do the rest. She never indulges in melodrama. In her hands, the human drama, pared to its essentials, is heartbreaking—and inspiring—enough.” —Lloyd Sachs, Chicago Sun-Times
“A rare achievement, a hefty and compellingly readable piece of literature that, published mere weeks ago, feels as if it pre-dates the author’s own 37 years. . . . In the expansive tradition of Pasternak or Tolstoy, Orringer seduces us . . . . Big, passionate ideas illustrated in so much masterly detail that we can taste and smell and see. . . . The Invisible Bridge is dense with a master’s intelligence.” —Darren Sextro, The Kansas City Star
“Haunting. . . . [The Invisible Bridge] exhibits wonderfully evoked realism. . . . A literary throwback of sorts, a fat facsimile of a nineteenth-century novel, the kind of story that critics would faintly praise as ‘sweeping’ (commonly meaning they write it off in other respects) were the author not so obviously endowed with talent, and the novel’s particularities so vibrant.” —Art Winslow, The Chicago Tribune
“A major talent. . . . Reminiscent of 19th-century novels. . . . This fascinating book . . . has much to say about war, and how it affects individuals indiscriminately, changing their dreams.” —Anne Morris, The Dallas Morning News
“[Orringer] imbues the novel with a luminosity equally at odds with and inherent to Holocaust-themed works, wherein a turn of phrase results in a turn of fate, or a happenchance encounter results in a relationship that saves a soul. No less miraculous, however, are the tools by which Orringer builds these connections: Her writing is glorious, at times awe-inspiring. Her research is painstaking and deftly woven into the body of her work—never academic, yet consistently learned. And her grasp of detail—her knowledge of and affiliation with place—is front and center, highlighting the feisty merger of architecture and culture, theatrical review and politics, that roiled in the lull between the world’s great wars, that roils still.” —Ellen Urbani, The Oregonian
“The Invisible Bridge is an unabashedly big, wartime epic à la Dr. Zhivago, with ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ as a theme song instead of a balalaika ballad. And when it comes to the memory of love, you can’t do better than Gershwin.” —Yvonne Zipp, The Christian-Science Monitor
“Brilliant. . . . Orringer covers the darkest matters with a tender authority while imbuing her characters with the subtle, endless dimensions of love and suffering. . . . It’s an arduous charge, and Orringer has succeeded: She’s written a Shoah novel that is gripping, fresh and worth remembering and, unlike much of the ephemera consumed poolside this summer, this novel will endure.” —Allison Yarrow, The Jewish Daily Forward
“One of the best books of the year.” —Junot Diaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao