Julie Orringer is the author of the short story collection How to Breathe Underwater (2003), which was named a New York Times Notable Book. In The Invisible Bridge, her first novel and a fictional version of her family's history, Orringer follows a gifted young architecture student as he experiences love and loss during the Holocaust.
The Story: In 1937 Andras Lévi travels to Paris to study at the renowned École Spéciale d'Architecture. As a Jew, his educational opportunities are severely limited in his native Hungary, a result of the country's increasingly restrictive anti-Semitic laws. Andras thrives in the City of Light, earning praise from the famous architect Le Corbusier and falling deeply in love with Klara, a beautiful and mysterious ballet teacher who is also of Hungarian-Jewish heritage. When Andras is summoned home, Klara decides to follow him, but the two find themselves returning to a country they no longer recognize.
Knopf. 602 pages. $26.95. ISBN: 9781400041169
"Like [Tolstoy and Stendhal], she chronicles sea changes in European history through the eyes of finely fashioned characters, and like them, she has created a story simultaneously epic and intimate. ... [T]his stunning work manages to feel both original and part and parcel of the well-blazed tradition of historical novels that came before it." Keith Staskiewicz
"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, midcentury Paris neighborhoods) brings to mind Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. ... Many times in my life I've felt that I could take in no more information about the Holocaust. But The Invisible Bridge sneaked under my radar, and I'm glad it did." Marion Winik
Onion AV Club
"Artists have examined this particular war countless times, in countless ways, but 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, even better than a newsreel or a cold hard fact. ... Orringer has built a large novel in the grand old style, and out of that rubble made something new and beautiful." Gregg LaGambina
Los Angeles Times
"If you're still looking for a ‘big' novel to carry into the summer holidays--one in which you can lose yourself without the guilty suspicion that you're slumming--then Julie Orringer's The Invisible Bridge is the book you want. ... [A] stunning first novel." Tim Rutten
"[E]very 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
San Francisco Chronicle
"Sometimes with a historical novel, one feels burdened by the author's scrupulous research and by the author's need to put all that research into the novel, whether the story demands it or not. Here, the details are lavish--and Orringer's knowledge truly breathtaking--but the details are never superfluous." Debra Spark
New York Times
"Even as Ms. Orringer fills her book and her protagonist with hope, she underscores the imminence of danger with what, in view of her often exquisitely precise use of language, seems like a heavy hand. ... Ms. Orringer's long, crowded book is its own kind of forest, and not every tree needs to be here; her novel's dramatic power might have been greatly enhanced by pruning." Janet Maslin
Given the novel's size and subject matter, critics can be forgiven for their initial skepticism over a 600-plus page book on the Holocaust--by a first-time novelist, no less. But they were very pleasantly surprised--astonished, even--at Orringer's beautifully rendered novel, which most believed, with its "sweep akin to that of Dr. Zhivago" (New York Times) and other classics, is destined to become a modern-day classic itself. Although one critic felt the novel could have used a more aggressive editor and others noted some overwrought language, most described The Invisible Bridge as a beautifully researched, old-fashioned love story, "the type Tolstoy might have scratched out with a gnawed pencil" (Onion AV Club). Four stars, or four-and-a-half stars? Only time will tell if we gave it a half too few.