Julie Orringer The Invisible Bridge, Penguin Viking (2010) 602 pages.

  1. Dreamwoven
    This is a stunning book about the Hungarian Holocaust. The author, born in 1973 in America, drew on documents and narratives of her relatives in America and Europe. It begins in 1937 and goes on to the end of the war. At the centre of the story are two Hungarian Jewish families and the relationship between Andras Levi and Klara Morganstern. It starts with Andras taking the train to Paris where he will study architecture. He is very poor and learns to cope in a difficult environment, learns French and begins to show signs of being a succesful architect.

    Slowly the war-clouds gather over Europe as the two lovers grow close. The Appeasement of the Munich Agreement of 1938, leading to the occupation of Czechoslovakia, the resulting Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, culminating in the invasion and occupation of France in 1941 form a backdrop to the rising wave of antisemitism in Europe. Andras has to go to Hungary to renew his visa, and this become a one-way trip to Hungary, accompanied by Klara, as War looks increasingly likely. Their marriage, at the Dohany Street Great Sinagogue in Budapest (the second largest synagogue in the world), has their parents in attendance..

    We learn how the Regent of Hungary, Admiral Horthy, co-operated with Hitler to add to Hungary's territories but eventually had to compromise, first by sending his best division to fight in Russia, then as Hitler was put on the defensive after Stalingrad, increasingly he no longer needed Hungarian co-operation, Germany took over and implemented the Hungarian Holocaust.

    Despite this, Hungarian jews survived to the extent that today Budapest has the only surviving jewish quarter in Europe. I looked it up on google maps, Nefelécs Utsa (Forget-me-not street, the Synagogue and more besides).

    The book is, of course, written in English, but is peppered with Hungarian expressions, like "I kiss your hand" (Kezétcsokolom). I found The Invisible Bridge fascinating reading and learned to my surprise, that my knowledge of Hungarian was better than I expected. It interweaves the dramatic wartime history of Hungary with the fate of the two families. As the crisis takes form and grows, the problems of the two families rise to a terrifying climax.
  2. KookyKaye
    Interesting plot. I will definitely add this to my reading list. Thanks!
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