The Invisible Bridge is the stunning (but very long) first novel by Julie Orringer. The story opens in Budapest, Hungary in 1937. A young Jewish man, Andras Levi, is leaving Hungary to study architecture in Paris. His family is poor, but he has received a scholarship to study at the Ecole Speciale. As he is preparing to depart, Andras goes to the bank to exchange money. He is noticed by the wife of the bank president, who asks him to deliver a package to her son, who is also studying in Paris. When Andras goes to her home to collect the package, the woman’s mother-in-law gives him a letter to post in Paris. The favors that Andras does for these women touch off a series of life-changing events for Andras.
Andras has left behind not only his parents in Hungary, but his younger brother Matyas, still in school, and his older and much beloved brother Tibor. Tibor is working in Budapest, hoping to save enough money to attend medical school. Through one of the contacts that Andras develops in Paris, Tibor is granted a scholarship to study medicine in Modena, Italy.
The first part of the book tells of Andras’ first two years of school in Paris. He takes a job at a theater, and through that meets the mysterious woman to whom he had posted the letter given to him in Budapest. After Andras’ second year of school, Europe becomes engulfed in the Second World War. Andras must return to Hungary, where he is conscripted in the Hungarian forced labor service.
World War II has spawned innumerable stories. So many of them are worth hearing and remembering. The story of the Jews of Hungary is one that is not told that frequently. Although The Invisible Bridge is fiction, there is much fact in the story. It is sad, but the the emphasis on the enduring nature of the human spirit is powerful.
I highly recommend this book!
Published in hardcover-Knopf-2010