Julie Orringer's debut novel, The Invisible Bridge, offers the sort of immersive reading experience that once led to trouble for this English major. Instead of trudging through an assignment, I would lose myself in a book like Vikram Seth's 1,300-page "A Suitable Boy" and then stumble through class discussions about assigned books I hadn't even cracked open.
With "The Invisible Bridge," Orringer takes readers back to 1937, as Andras Levi, a Hungarian-Jewish architecture student, begins his studies in Paris. With just these particulars, readers know where this story is going, and in the book's first quarter, we see anti-Semitism snowball from isolated vandalism and violence into a malignancy that drives the second half of the novel.
Orringer's story derives its absorbing power from the relationship that develops between Andras and Klara, a ballet teacher who left Budapest to establish a new life for herself and her daughter in Paris. The love story traces from Andras' fumbles in its incipient stages to the profound connection that allows for the simple intimacy of a haircut to carry weight.
Critic Michael Kroner wrote in The Plain Dealer that "this novel shows how Michael Chabon would write if he grew up a ballet-dancing girl instead of comic-book-loving boy."
Causes Julie Orringer Supports
Partners in Health
Medicins Sans Frontiers