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The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

The Invisible Bridge by Julie OrringerThe Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer is the tale of three Hungarian-Jewish brothers, each with their own unique artistic talents, whose dreams were derailed as Hitler ravaged through Europe.   Prior to the war, Andras Lévi, the main character, travels to Paris since he was unable to study architecture in his own country due to Jewish quotas.  In Paris, he excels at school and falls in love with a woman in exile.   When his visa expires and he must return to Hungary, his life becomes unrecognizable.  He tries to make the best of his circumstances as he searches for meaning in what his life has become.

From the Publisher (Vintage)

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.

Book Club Party Ideas for The Invisible Bridge

Music for a book club party for The Invisible Bridge can include:

Below is a collection of music from Hungary and WWII:

World Music from HungaryFolk Music of HungaryWWII songs

Apple iTunes

The decorations focused on the good times in prewar Paris – a ballerina for Klara and architecture plans for Andras.  The backdrop of many of the pictures is a canvas room divider featuring a French street cafe scene.

invisible bridge decorations

Book Club Menu for The Invisible Bridge

Before the war, Andras and his friends at École Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris liked to drink whiskey and soda, the drink of American movie stars (page 59).  In Hungary, they drank slivovitz, or plum brandy (page 373).

Andras learned to cook by watching his mother and wowed his new found love.  “He could make palacsinta, thin egg pancakes, with chocolate or jam or apple filling; he could make Paprikás Burgonya and Spaetzle and Red Cabbage with Caraway Seeds” (page 117).   Hungarian Farmer’s Bread would taste great with this meal.

spaetzle, cabbage

The tablecloths are laid out like the Hungarian flag.  I included one pink carnation(page 592) in honor of the tap dancing youngest brother, Mátyás.  The map in the background marks Paris, Budapest and the dreaded Ukraine as well as Palestine where they hoped to be able to live out their dreams.

I made an assemble your own Palacsinta bar, which included bowls of walnuts, chocolate chips, fresh fruit, Nutella, chocolate syrup and strawberry and apricot jam.   Jam plays an important role in The Invisible Bridge– the eldest brother Tibor carried jam he found at a farmhouse in the palm of his had for 20 kilometers (page 563) in order to feed Andras.

Crepes, nuts, fruit, strawberries, blueberries, chocolate

hungarian crepes

I bought my Paris plates at Home Goods for $4 each, but they were not easy to find on the internet…and quite expensive.  You can get them at and on ebay.

Book Club Resources

Ratings at the time this post was published

Goodreads:  4.19 stars (1672 reviews)
Amazon: 4.5 stars (117 reviews)
Barnes & Noble:  4 stars (170 reviews)
My Rating:  5 stars.

Book Reviews

  • “Truly breathtaking . . . gloriously rendered . . . a sensual feast. . . . I didn’t want it to end.”
    —Debra Spark, San Francisco Chronicle
  • “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 comraderies 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
  • “The book covers the Hungarian experience of the war and manages to evoke the horror of the Holocaust but as a spectre that always remains just offstage; part of the novel’s power lies in the fact that we as readers know what could happen to these people, what could waiting just around the corner, and we wonder if and when they will get there or if by some miracle they’ll escape.” — Boston Bibliophile

Book Club Discussion

  • The difference in the classes is one area of discussion.  The youngest of the three brothers says, in response to Klara’s well-to-do family having an opera box “At least they still have the opera box.  Music can be such a comfort when other people are dying” (page 377).
  • Control over one’s destiny is another theme.  Andras said that he hoped that Klara would understand why he had to write the papers.  It “concerned the difference between feeling at the mercy of one’s fate and, to some small degree, the master of it” (page 439).
  • The roles of coincidence and chance.  A review in the LA Times stated “Anyone who ever has spent time in conversation with Holocaust survivors or read their firsthand account of those years will recognize, too, how precisely Orringer has captured the role coincidence and chance played in dividing those who lived from those who were murdered.”   Andras states “A hundred times it might have been the end” (page 566).

Purchase The Invisible Bridge at your favorite bookseller

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About the Author

Julie Orringer is the author of the award-winning short-story collection How to Breathe Underwater, which was a New York Times Notable Book. She is the winner of The Paris Review’s Discovery Prize and the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Stanford University, and the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. She lives in Brooklyn, where she is researching a new novel.

Visit the website of Julie Orringer

Other books by Julie Orringer

The Great Escape bookNight and Fog documentary

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Share your thoughts. We love your comments!

  1. As always, fabulous job of pulling such amazing choices to represent an incredible book — I haven’t read this one yet, and although I know I’m going to cry quite a bit, I’ve put it on my list to read.

    Comment by Coffee and a Book Chick on November 8, 2010 at 8:07 am

  2. Thank you! I highly recommend this book. Some parts were definitely hard to read but the characters do what they can to survive and their strength balances out the sad parts. And I laughed out loud at the newspapers the main character and his friend start in the labor camps…the articles were so funny.

    Comment by Lisa on November 8, 2010 at 10:05 am

  3. I love this post. What a wonderful book club spread you did. Thank you for linking to my post but I’m just so glad to have found this great post!

    Comment by Marie on November 8, 2010 at 9:09 pm

  4. Marie, in your review you truly captured my feelings about the book..and wrote it much more eloquently than I ever could! I also like when you said “I never felt like I was reading research, or even fiction- I felt like I was reading real life” Very true.

    Comment by Lisa on November 8, 2010 at 9:36 pm

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