Monday, July 23, 2012
Author: Julie Orringer
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Source: Kindle for iPad
Books I've read this year: 85
When Eddie and I were newlyweds, one summer he took a Great Russian Novels class. I had just graduated from college and hadn't started teaching yet, so I read all of the books he read. It was a great summer. We'd read and then talk about Turgenev and Dostoyevsky, Chekhov and Tolstoy. In particular, I remember two things about Tolstoy-- Anna Karenina captured me in a way that I hadn't been swept away since reading Anne of Green Gables as a kid, and I had a love-hate relationship with War and Peace. I loved the Peace parts-- the romance and the dresses and everything, and found myself skimming through the war parts.
Julie Orringer's The Invisible Bridge reminds me a lot of War and Peace. In the first half of the novel, Andras Levi, a young Hungarian Jew, travels to Paris in 1937 to go to architecture school. He falls in love with the city, and also falls in love with Klara, a ballet dancer in her early thirties with a teenage daughter and a complicated past. Because the story centers on European Jews in the late 1930s, readers know what's coming, and a sense of foreboding hangs over the whole beautiful love story of the first half of the novel. But I loved the romance anyway, even though I knew where it would lead.
The second half of the novel is a live stripped down to its essences. Can a family, a love, a life survive when all of the trappings of school and romance and comforts are stripped away? How much pain and privations can one man stand? I found that I enjoyed the "war" parts of The Invisible Bridge more than I did in War and Peace, but it was the love story that made this book a great read.