The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

Julie Orringer’s astonishing first novel, eagerly awaited since the publication of her heralded best-selling short-story collection, How to Breathe Underwater (“fiercely beautiful”—The New York Times; “unbelievably good”—Monica Ali), is a grand love story set against the backdrop of Budapest and Paris, an epic tale of three brothers whose lives are ravaged by war, and the chronicle of one family’s struggle against the forces that threaten to annihilate it.

 Paris, 1937. Andras Lévi, a Hungarian-Jewish architecture student, arrives from Budapest with a scholarship, a single suitcase, and a mysterious letter he has promised to deliver to C. Morgenstern on the rue de Sévigné. As he falls into a complicated relationship with the letter’s recipient, he becomes privy to a secret history that will alter the course of his own life. Meanwhile, as his elder brother takes up medical studies in Modena and their younger brother leaves school for the stage, Europe’s unfolding tragedy sends each of their lives into terrifying uncertainty. At the end of Andras’s second summer in Paris, all of Europe erupts in a cataclysm of war.

From the small Hungarian town of Konyár to the grand opera houses of Budapest and Paris, from the lonely chill of Andras’s room on the rue des Écoles to the deep and enduring connection he discovers on the rue de Sévigné, from the despair of Carpathian winter to an unimaginable life in forced labor camps and beyond, The Invisible Bridge tells the story of a love tested by disaster, of brothers whose bonds cannot be broken, of a family shattered and remade in history’s darkest hour, and of the dangerous power of art in a time of war.

Expertly crafted, magnificently written, emotionally haunting, and impossible to put down,
The Invisible Bridge resoundingly confirms Julie Orringer’s place as one of today’s most vital and commanding young literary talents.

Below you can find the Twitter discussion of The Invisible Bridge with author Julie Orringer that took place October 26, 2010. Make sure to follow Jewish Book Council (@jewishbook) for more Twitter Book Club events!

JewishLibraries: All set for Twitter Book Club. #jbcbooks

jorringer: Hi, #JBCBooks! I'm ready for your questions.

janiceharayda: THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE is a love story about Hungarian Jews during World War II. I may tweet about it during the #JBCBookschat starting now.

JewishBook: Hi everyone! Welcome to our 6th Twitter book club. Today we're discussing Julie Orringer's The Invisible Bridge #JBCBooks

JewishBook: To start things off-- @jorringer how did your personal (family) history impact your choices in writing this novel? #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @erikadreifus @jewishbook @jorringer A question after my own heart! #JBCBooks

jorringer: The novel started from my grandfather's experiences before and during the war. #JBCBooks

jorringer: He was an architecture student, and, later, in labor camps. #JBCBooks

JewishLibraries: @jorringer so, the american girl at the end, who wants to find out her family's stories- was that you? #jbcbooks

jorringer: Only in a very general way! In the sense that many of us are curious about our family histories, and must ask questions. #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: Observation: I think we are seeing growing cohort of 3rd-generation voices: @JOrringer @NatashaSolomons & others. Gen X, Y, etc.#JBCBooks

nycbook: @jorringer did you find andras' character particularly compelling to write then? if not, which one was? #JBCBooks

JewishLibraries: @erikadreifus yes! people telling parents', grandparents' stories.#jbcbooks

jorringer: @erikadreifus I think you're right--I think we're feeling like it's important to hear/tell these stories while we can still ask.#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @JOrringer I know Paris & its history better than Hungary. You captured Paris in 30s so well! What research helped? Travel grants? #JBCBooks

BookGal102: @erikadreifus @jewishbook And, remember Shira Nayman's Awake in the Dark? #JBCBooks

jorringer: @nycbooks Andras's character was challenging, in a way--he started out similar to my grandfather, had to become his own person. #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: Loved that book. @BookGal102 @jewishbook And, remember Shira Nayman's Awake in the Dark? #JBCBooks

nycbook: @jorringer were any of the other characters based on people in your grandfather's life? #JBCbooks

jorringer: @erikadreifus Travel grants! I wish! There should be more of those for writers. #JBCBooks

BookGal102: @jorringer did you use archives? If so, which were most helpful? #JBCBooks

jorringer: @nycbook My grandfather's brothers both figured as characters in the novel, or at least the germs of characters... #JBCBooks

jorringer: @nycbook I should mention that my great uncle Alfred was really an acrobatic tap dancer! #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @jorringer And on another research-related note: What's your experience reading/speaking French & Hungarian? #JBCBooks

JewishLibraries @jorringer that's a wonderful detail! #jbcbooks

jorringer: @BookGal102 Yes! The National Jewish Archives in Budapest were the most helpful--photos, letters, newspapers from labor camps.#JBCBooks

JewishBook: Psst, @AAKnopf-- check out the great questions @jorringer is answering at our twitter book club going on now #JBCBooks

jorringer: @erikadreifus I grew up hearing my mother and grandparents speak Hungarian, but didn't speak more than a few words... #JBCBooks

jorringer: @erikadreifus Then I learned more when I had to go to Hungary for research. But had a translator to help me with tough stuff.#JBCBooks

nycbook: @jorringer are there any moments in the lives of your characters that were cut? were there any that you miss now? #JBCBooks

BookGal102: @jorringer I loved the poem you included at the end, Any Case. Why did you decide to include it at the end instead of the beg?

jorringer: @erikadreifus French I studied in grad school. Learned enough to do research. Reading newspapers from 30's was most helpful!#JBCbooks.

erikadreifus: @jorringer I loved how the service brought together Jewish characters from diff backgrounds/languages w/common Hebrew prayer. #JBCBooks

jorringer: @BookGal102 I love that poem--Wislawa Szymborska, Any Case. To use it at the beginning would have been to reveal who survives.#JBCBooks

JewishLibraries: @jorringer one of the things i loved abt your bk was the sense that anything could happen to anyone- no one was safe. #jbcbooks

BookGal102: @jorringer ah, yes. good point! really ended the book well #JBCBooks

jorringer: @erikadreifus I've had that experience, going to shul overseas. My husband and I went to Rosh Hashanah at my grandparents' shul.#JBCBooks

jorringer: @JewishLibraries Many people I spoke to described that feeling--for so long, no one felt safe. #JBCBooks

JewishLibraries: @jorringer and that's true to life, too. that's reality. i love that your book showed that. #jbcbooks

BookGal102: @jorringer do you feel like the Hungarian Jews thought they were safer than others b/c of their politicians etc? interesting to#JBCBooks

BookGal102: @jorringer think about considering the poem. scary times! #JBCBooks

BookGal102: @jorringer as the writer, how did u go about writing your characters’ reactions to what was happening in Europe, esp knowing#JBCBooks

BookGal102: @jorringer what would happen to them later? #JBCBooks

jorringer: My grandmother says, "The fictional parts of the book are true; if they didn't happen to us, they happened to someone else."#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @JOrringer Pls tell us the book's pub history. Did you/agent get any responses fr houses, "not 'another' Holocaust bk," etc.?#JBCBooks

jorringer: @BookGal102 The Hungarian Jews did feel safer. The country wasn't occupied until March 1944; they thought the war might end...#JBCBooks

nycbook: @jorringer wow, amazing quote from your grandmother #JBCBooks

jorringer: @bookgal102...before they could be deported. News from the camps seemed too horrible to be true. #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @nycbook I agree! Extraordinary quote. Just retweeted it. #JBCBooks

BookGal102: @jorringer I couldn't help but think of The Hangman poem #JBCBooks

jorringer: @BookGal102 The characters themselves didn't know what would happen later; that was what drove my decisions. #JBCBooks

JewishBook: @jorringer why did you ultimately choose the invisible bridge as your title? were you considering any others? #JBCBooks

Powell_DA: Julie Orringer is discussing her novel right now on twitter. She's @jorringer. Use hashtag #JBCBooks

jorringer: @erikadreifus About pub history: not many books about Hungarian Jews' experience. My editor was supportive all along.#JBCBooks

nycbook: @jorringer how was the experience of writing a novel v. writing your last book of short stories? #JBCbooks

jorringer: @JewishBook The title came from a jokey article in one of the labor camp newspapers. But also suggests connections over time...#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @jorringer True. Was this part of a two-book deal w/your story collection, then? #JBCBooks

jorringer: @JewishBook ...and between people. There's a hint of storytelling there, too, another invisible bridge. #JBCBooks

jorringer: @Powell_DA JBC, the wonderful poet D.A. Powell is with us in this chat. We've celebrated Pesach together many a time! #JBCBooks

BookGal102: @jorringer @jewishbook love the image (of the "invisible bridge")#JBCBooks

jorringer: @nycbooks I loved working on a much longer two projects are novels too, though I just finished a story. #JBCBooks

jorringer: @erikadreifus Yes, this was part of a two-book deal. An act of faith on my editor's part. #JBCBooks

JewishBook: Thanks for joining us @Powell_DA ! #JBCBooks

JewishBook: wow, 40 min went by so fast. Any last questions? #JBCBooks

nycbook: @jorringer @nycbooks can you tell us anything about the next two novels? #JBCbooks

jorringer: @nycbook The next one is about Varian Fry, the New York journalist who saved Jewish writers/artists in France during the war.#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: Thank you @jorringer for generous responses (and exceptional book) & @JewishBook for facilitating. Until next time... #JBCBooks

BookGal102: @jorringer @jewishbook Thanks for the book club! Really looking forward to the next Twunch and Talk #JBCBooks

jorringer: @nycbook The one after that's still a secret. #JBCBooks

nycbook: @jorringer wow, sounds great. looking forward to reading it!#JBCbooks

JewishLibraries: thanks for the chat @jorringer & @jewishbook - and @jorringer, thank you for the wonderful book! #jbcbooks

jorringer: Thank you, @JewishBook! It's been a pleasure. #JBCBooks

JewishLibraries: @jorringer I can't wait to read your book about Fry! #jbcbooks

Powell_DA: Is motherhood changing your writing habits or subjects? @nycbook@jorringer @JewishBook #JBCbooks

JewishBook: Thank you so much @jorringer and all who participated!#JBCBooks

JewishBook: What did you think of today’s book club? What book would like to discuss next? Email #JBCBooks

JewishLibraries: @JewishBook I'd love to discuss THE FINKLER QUESTION#jbcbooks

jorringer: @Powell_DA Inevitably! Little guy has his own opinions about my writing time. Subjects: yes, that too. Everything matters more.#JBCBooks

JewishBook: On Friday, we’ll be announcing title selections to vote on for our next book club, so check back here! #JBCBooks

JewishBook: @JewishLibraries Thanks for the suggestion!! We'll list the choices on Friday #JBCBooks