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70 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The war in Hungary...a family's story.
In the history of WW2 and the Holocaust, Hungary and the fate of the Hungarian Jews was different than the other European countries that fell under Nazi domination. This is because Hungary, under the rule of Admiral Horthy, was an "ally" of Germany. Because of their allied status, Hungary was not occupied by the Germans until 1944. As an ally, the Hungarian Jews were...
Published on 25 May 2010 by Jill Meyer

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somehow it just misses
This is a very familiar type of novel - a sweeping historical saga in which lovers are torn apart by war - but with a bit of a difference. It's set in Hungary, for a change, and then at the end it becomes clear that the author is writing about her own family: the wealth of authentic-sounding detail is explained by the fact that these are stories her grandparents and other...
Published 23 months ago by Bookwoman


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70 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The war in Hungary...a family's story., 25 May 2010
By 
Jill Meyer (United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Invisible Bridge (Paperback)
In the history of WW2 and the Holocaust, Hungary and the fate of the Hungarian Jews was different than the other European countries that fell under Nazi domination. This is because Hungary, under the rule of Admiral Horthy, was an "ally" of Germany. Because of their allied status, Hungary was not occupied by the Germans until 1944. As an ally, the Hungarian Jews were spared the mass deportations to the death camps that were being done all over German-occupied territories in eastern and western Europe. But the Hungarian Jews were still affected by the war; many of the men were "drafted" into worker orginisations that aided the Hungarian war effort. The Horthy regime was able to go against their German ally's demands until the overthrow of the government and occupation by the Germans in 1944. With German occupation, the Hungarian Jews faced the same fate as their European counterparts. In the space of about nine months, from German occupation until Russian liberation, hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were murdered.

Against this political and social background, Julie Orringer tells the story of the Hasz family. Three brothers, their parents, spouses, and other relatives and friends were tossed by the winds of war and destruction from 1938 until 1956, when the surviving family members were able to flee Communist Hungary for freedom in the US. Orringer is brilliant in her descriptions of Jewish life in Paris, Budapest, and the out-lying Hungarian countryside. This is a long book, about 600 or so pages, but I was never bored. Orringer's writing is so nuanced that she's able to write about the study of architecture in Paris to the intricacies of Jewish life and religious practice to the horrors of the labor camps in eastern Europe. The plot is compulsively readable and the characterisations only a little less so.

This is obviously the story of Orringer's own family. She beautifully weaves history, politics, religion, and human relationships into one very good book.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Invisible Bridge, 23 Sept. 2010
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This review is from: The Invisible Bridge (Paperback)
This is a most compelling story. The author involves you in the lives and hardships of the family of Hungarian Jews in WWII. I couldn't put it down. It was the first book I have read that showed the war from the view point of the Hungarians and I found it most moving. I would highly recommend this to any reader.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Perfect, 2 May 2012
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This review is from: The Invisible Bridge (Kindle Edition)
I wanted this book to finish on the one hand as I was desperate to know if the ending was how I wanted it to be, but on the other hand as I came to the last few pages I began to feel really sad that it was ending. Such a wonderful story, primarily about Andras and Clara, but also entwined into this are the lives of those they love and the influences around them, beginning with how they first meet and then their relationship as the war progresses. I love big books that you can get so involved in and it didnt dissapoint, it was very informative and educational as well as a love story. It wasnt too sloppy, or repetative, it didnt get boring either as some war books can, but pitched at the right level and I would say for men and women. I havent given it a 5 star because I am reserving that for the ultimate book, which I havent found as yet in all my years of reading, at some point though hopefully.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somehow it just misses, 1 May 2013
By 
Bookwoman - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Invisible Bridge (Paperback)
This is a very familiar type of novel - a sweeping historical saga in which lovers are torn apart by war - but with a bit of a difference. It's set in Hungary, for a change, and then at the end it becomes clear that the author is writing about her own family: the wealth of authentic-sounding detail is explained by the fact that these are stories her grandparents and other relatives have told her.
It's an interesting subject, and it's well written. But despite the heart-rending tales of courage and suffering, to be expected in a book about Jewish families living through the second world war in Budapest, I found parts of it very dull and even skipped through some passages. Because she wants the reader to bear witness to these terrible events she keeps re-telling us what's happening and why, describing everything at length - the result is a book that's crying out for an editor with an eye for a dramatic scene and an ear for some good dialogue. And for a book like this to be really effective I really needed some unforgettable characters and to be swept up in the story of the romantic leads, which I definitely was not: Andras and Katya aren't a very convincing pair.
It's a worthy tale, and one that should move you to tears, yet somehow it just misses. When you can't remember the title of a book even when you're reading it, it doesn't tend to be something that will linger in the mind. But with a clever screenwriter creating some dramatic scenes - which are all in there, somewhere - and some good casting, this would make a great big-budget tv series. Or even a feature film: the Hungarian Dr Zhivago?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive Chronicle of a War, 17 Jan. 2012
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Invisible Bridge (Paperback)
A superbly researched novel dealing with World War II in Hungary, based on the lives of Orringer's grandparents. Andras, a Jewish architect, wins a grant to study in Paris during the 1930s. While there, he falls in love with the mysterious Klara, a dancer and dance teacher somewhat older than him, with a grown daughter. Despite increased anti-semitism, and struggles to make ends meet, Andras does well in Paris, wins the respect of his teachers and, finally and after much turmoil, the heart of Klara. Orringer describes very well Andras's life in Paris, his struggles to earn money to support his studies, and his friendships, largely with other Eastern European Jewish students.

With the rise of fascism at the end of the 1930s Andras's visa is cancelled and he returns to Hungary. Klara, although she knows it is unsafe for her to return to her native land (for reasons that we learn towards the end of the Paris part of the book) goes with him. As World War II begins, Andras is conscripted into a labour brigade, and forced to work for the Hungarian fascists. Orringer writes brilliantly about the horrors of the labour camps, and about the cruelty of the right-wing Hungarian government (something that's not been covered by that many novelists, though Linda Grant, in 'The Clothes on their Backs' also wrote a brilliant account of what World War II was like for the Jews of Hungary). With the war raging, life becomes harder and harder for Andras and Klara, separated from each other. And though Andras ends up being held in the same camp as his brother Tibor (a medical student) he has no news of his second brother, Matyas. The couple keep going by the sheer indomitability of their spirits. It would be spoiling the novel to give away the ending - enough to say that though there is tragedy, at least some of the principal characters survive to make a new life.

This is a well-written and very gripping novel. I loved the descriptions of Jewish life - in rural Hungarian villages, in Paris and Budapest - and though the labour camp scenes were of course grim they were very atmospheric. The descriptions of Paris and Budapest were wonderful. Although there were a few howlers (one couldn't drive from Paris to Nice in a day in the 1930s!) the research was very impressive, and the story well laid out. My one feeling of regret was that we never got any of the story (apart from the narrative of her adolescence) from Klara's point of view; she remained a rather hazy character. Still - an excellent, impressive read that I look forward to re-visiting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful story set in wartime Europe, 7 Aug. 2011
By 
Helen S - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Invisible Bridge (Paperback)
The Invisible Bridge begins in 1937 and follows the fortunes of three Hungarian Jewish brothers - Andras, Tibor and Matyas Levi - as they try to survive in a Europe torn apart by World War II. At the beginning of the book, Andras is preparing to leave Budapest and go to Paris to study architecture. Soon after his arrival in France, Andras meets Klara Morgenstern, a woman nine years older than himself, a ballet teacher with a teenage daughter. Andras and Klara fall in love, but Klara has secrets in her past - secrets that she would prefer not to share with Andras.

Andras and Klara's story is played out against a backdrop of wartime Paris, Budapest, Ukraine and parts of the Hungarian countryside. The complex relationship between Andras and Klara is always at the heart of the novel but to dismiss this book as just another romance is unfair because it's so much more than that.

Despite reading a lot of novels set during World War II, this is the first one I've read that is told from a Hungarian perspective. Hungary was allied with Germany which meant this story approached things from a slightly different angle than most other books I've read about the war and as I knew almost nothing about the role Hungary played, I was able to learn a lot from this book. And of course, because Andras and his family are Jews the novel is very much from a Jewish viewpoint. We see how it grew increasingly dangerous to be a Jew living in wartime Europe and how the Levi family became desperate to escape to safety. And when eventually Hungary finds itself under German occupation, we see that the Hungarian Jews fared no better than Jews elsewhere in Europe.

I enjoyed this book but it wasn't perfect. There were times when I thought the balance between the romance storyline and the war aspect wasn't quite right. And some of the characters needed more depth. I really liked Andras at first as he was a character who was easy to like and sympathise with, but as the story went on I started to find him a little bit too perfect and after spending more than 600 pages with him I wished he'd had a few flaws just to make him more interesting. I also think it would have been a nice touch if part of the book had been written from another character's point of view. Not really a criticism of the book - I just think it would have added another dimension to the story and with the book being so epic in scope, the opportunity was there to do this.

The biggest problem I had with the book was the length! I'm usually quite happy to immerse myself in a long book but unlike some stories which do take a long time to tell, I thought this one could easily have been a lot shorter. My attention started to wander somewhere in the middle of the book when a lot of time was spent describing Andras's life in the forced labour service (Jews were no longer allowed to serve in the actual Hungarian army but instead were expected to do jobs such as felling trees and clearing minefields) but things did pick up again over the last hundred pages.

In fact, the final section of the book, with its descriptions of life in Budapest towards the end of the war is so compelling and filled with so much tension, it made it worth sticking with the book through the less interesting chapters in the middle. And of course, I was genuinely worried for some of the characters so I had to keep reading to make sure they survived to the end of the book! I thought Orringer did a good job of keeping us in suspense wondering who would live or die and despite the few minor negative points I've mentioned above, I loved The Invisible Bridge.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A young man with a future meets a woman with a past, 21 July 2011
This review is from: The Invisible Bridge (Paperback)
I haven't read a book like this - a sweeping family saga against the backdrop of WW2 - for years, which is maybe why I've notched the four-and-a-half stars that I was unable to give up to five.

The book is the story of two Hungarian Jewish families and begins with Andras, the middle son of one family, falling under the spell of Klara in the atmosphere of student and theatrical life in the Paris of the late 1930s. The story moves through the experiences of this couple as well as their relatives and friends as Europe slides into war. The plot is gripping and involving, the characters engaging and the atmosphere almost takes you over. I think what raises this book above others of its kind is the intelligence of the writing and the diligence of the author's research into a far-reaching range of subjects. Only very occasionally did I feel that she was dumping information on us just because she'd researched it.

The other thing I loved about this book is its old-fashioned sense and understanding of humanity - something unusual in that the author is still relatively young. There is no sensationalising for the sake of it, no cliched judgements but instead a very sensitive handling of the differing shades of grey, as another reviewer has pointed out. This makes for a book that has depth and stays longer in your mind.

In the spirit of amazon recommendations, I'd direct anyone who enjoyed this book to The Glass Room by Simon Mawer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What a story, 13 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: The Invisible Bridge (Kindle Edition)
I am just reading it. I have some Hungarian background and therefore understand the Hungarian connection and the Hungarian word. I also understand the mentality. But the story is simplicistic. Despite the hard luck Jewish fate (I am myself half Jewish) I think the whole plot is not interesting enough to want to read on, specially if the reader is a non Hungarian non Jewish person. I don't know whether the original was written in Hungarian and translated; however my above comment stands. It may be a real story written by an amateur writer, or imagined story to make a point about anti-semitism or anti foreigners in France during the 2nd world war.
It makes tedious reading but I will not give up just in case it improves later.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hungary ww2, 31 July 2011
By 
Y Allen "Vonnie" (N ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Invisible Bridge (Paperback)
beautifully written story. the reader would assume it was written many years ago - it has that lovely old fashioned feel to it. when you start reading this you definitely won't put it down. miss or ringer has put in a lot of time and effort in researching this novel - from architecture to the tragedies of the Hungarians in ww2 ( a subject I had never read about before) and she deserves all the accolades that come her way. this novel will be remembered for many years to come. A classic!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, 6 Nov. 2011
By 
W. Munro (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Invisible Bridge (Paperback)
This was one of our suggested titles for our school staff reading group over the summer holidays. I took the kindle edition of this book with me on holiday this year and found it difficult to put down, including reading it over breakfast each morning before the rest of the family got up. The rest of the group, on the whole, also found it compelling and I have since bought it for a couple of friends, who also enjoyed it.
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The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
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