Book Review: The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (3/5)

24 Sep

I don’t remember why I wanted to read this one. It’s been on my list for a long time and it seemed about time to grab the audiobook and get on with it. At 22 disks, it was a big undertaking. I had to stop for a while to get through Dark Places, but I came back to it and pushed on. Was it worth it? Maybe, maybe not. Some points were beautiful. Others stretched on too long. In the end, I don’t think I’d recommend it, but it feels like an accomplishment to say I’m done.

Cover image via

Cover image via

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

Summary from Goodreads:

Paris, 1937. Andras Lévi, a Hungarian-Jewish architecture student, arrives from Budapest with a scholarship, a single suitcase, and a mysterious letter he promised to deliver. But when he falls into a complicated relationship with the letter’s recipient, he becomes privy to a secret that will alter the course of his—and his family’s—history. From the small Hungarian town of Konyár to the grand opera houses of Budapest and Paris, from the despair of Carpathian winter to an unimaginable life in labor camps, The Invisible Bridge tells the story of a family shattered and remade in history’s darkest hour.

Whatever else I say of this book, it was beautiful at times. The language was great and the characters stepped off the page (out of the speakers?). But it was long. Really, really long. I get that the point was for me to understand how extreme the changes were to Andras’s life. The Andras at the beginning is a naive student leaving his home for the first time. By the end, he’s a hardened man fleeing his home. I don’t think so many pages were needed to make that comparison as stark as it was. I didn’t need details of how to live in Paris on a budget and what kind of house he wanted to build on the coast for Klara to understand that concentration camps are a far cry from it. The beginning was a love story, the end was a survival story. I thought it would have been better as two books because they were so different. I was also a little put off by the street names. It reminded me of Stieg Larsson and in the audiobook, this stuck out a lot.

The characters were amazing. They made the book worth reading. Andras was a little dry, as are many narrators in a long book, but the characters around him like Zoltan, Polaner, Matyas, and Jozsef were great. It was easy to see them walking through Andras’s life and the effect each had on him.

Matyas was my favorite character. I loved his spirit and the distance from him was the hardest to bear. He had a love of life and a self-starting attitude that I identified with. I wanted him to be in the story more than he had been because I felt he lightened the darker moods and always seemed to have something fun to say.


I could identify with Klara and the concern she had for her husband. Granted, my husband isn’t going to labor camps, but I think it’s natural for a woman to worry about her husband when he’s gone, no matter where it is. I’m always fretting over my husband when he’s on trips or running late when he should be home from work. I think we’re pre-programmed to worry when someone’s away from home.

Image via NPR

Image via NPR

I enjoyed the end of Andras’s time in Paris most. I thought the plot was best paced in this part. The political situation was changing by the minute and people were scared. Elisabet was growing up and moving and Andras was having trouble as a foreigner in Paris and I felt their anxiety, their fear.

I disliked the beginning of the book and that’s probably why I was so put off by it. I wasn’t interested in Andras’s love story. I went into this looking for a WWII story and I didn’t care so much about how their relationship started. A lot of Klara’s backstory was interesting and did play into the plot later, but ultimately I thought it was a bit much.

The ending got to me a bit as well. I can’t go back and review the audiobook, but I’m pretty sure we never got the end of Jozsef’s story. Was he in the epilog and I missed it?

The audiobook was narrated by Arthur Morey. I thought he did well especially considering all the French and Hungarian names and places he had to read about. I wouldn’t say his narration enhanced the story, but it was not distracting at all and I was able to enjoy the book without thinking about the reading.

It’s a miracle that so much of the Levy family survived. What they went through was terrible and a dark spot in the world’s history. When they lost everything else, family was the one thing that stayed constant. Family grew to be more than Andras and Klara. It involved siblings, in-laws, cousins, and friends. Family was everyone who you loved and wanted to protect. When money and career are gone, family is the only thing we can count on.

Writer’s Takeaway: The epilog of this book makes me wonder if it’s a true story of Orringer’s relatives. I wonder if all the detail and length is to tell the whole story the way it happened and keep all of her family’s memories together in one book. Even if that’s true, I think it’s too long and too wondering for one book. Maybe Orringer could have done two books of Andras and Klara, but having it all in this one was too much. As writers, we’re always told to ‘kill our darlings’ and I don’t think Orringer did that. There were parts that could have been cut or shortened. They were beautiful, but didn’t advance the plot or characters and added length. It’s the hardest part of writing, but sometimes it needs to be done.

Good book, but too much! Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer | Cold Read
People of the Book: Interview with Julie Orringer | Moment Magazine
Julie Orringer’s ‘The Invisible Bridge’- A Saga of Love and Labor Camps in Hungary in World War II | One-Minute Book Reviews


2 Responses to “Book Review: The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (3/5)”

  1. Jessica @ Like Bears to Honey October 1, 2015 at 10:55 AM #

    Have you read her collection of short stories? I would recommend giving her another chance with some shorter material 🙂


    • Sam October 1, 2015 at 11:50 AM #

      I have not. I’m not big on short stories so I might wait to see if she had another novel out. Thanks for stopping by!


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