Having been awarded a scholarship to study architecture at the Ecole Speciale in Paris in 1937 was no small feat for Andras Levi, a poor Hungarian-Jew from the small Hungarian town of Konyar. He arrived from Budapest with only a single suitcase and a mysterious letter he had promised to deliver to a C. Morgenstern. He makes friends with some fellow Jewish students, allying with them against increasing Nazi threats. He falls in love with C. Morgenstern - Klara - a beautiful Hungarian ballet instructor nine years his senior with a hauntingly dark past. With war threatening, Andras is forced to return to Hungary and Klara insists on coming with him. Andras and his two brothers find themselves pawns in the Nazi chess game of using Hungary to advance their invasion of Russia, sent out in work details for months at a time in labor camps that were little more than concentration camps. By the autumn of 1939, all of Europe erupted in the full-blown catastophe of World War II. Even Hungary, thinking themselves safe in allying with Germany, was been invaded by the Nazis. As in Dr. Zhivago, lovers Andras and Klara cannot escape the horrors of war, but find courage in their love for each other and in their families.
I must admit that I balked a bit at reading a 600 page novel that appeared to be yet another novel about World War II. I was surprised to find myself unable to put it down, taken in by the grandeur of Paris opera houses and the Parisian architecture. Andras' simple yet close family ties in Hungary contrasting with his new life in Paris as student, friend and lover was beautifully portrayed by the author, Julie Orringer. As the inevitable history unfolded with the characters caught up in it, I found myself totally absorbed and caring very much about how they would survive the war. The Invisible Bridge is a novel of epic proportions but so well written that it felt intimate.