Julie Orringer's dazzling debut novel The Invisible Bridge, begins with an epigraph from W.G. Sebald, but her tale of war-torn Europe reaches back past his work, past the literature of the 1930s and 1940s the era in which her story is set all the way back to the works of Tolstoy and Stendhal. Like them, she chronicles sea changes in European history through the eyes of finely fashioned characters, and like them, she has created a story simultaneously epic and intimate.
Andras is a Hungarian Jew studying in Paris as Hitler's influence begins to spread across a continent already riddled with anti-Semitism and bloodlust. He falls for fellow émigré Klara, and their world is soon rocked by war. Other characters weave in and out of the story line, but it's the love tethering Andras and Klara that powers the narrative's massive machinery.
The Invisible Bridge is without a doubt an ambitious slice of literature, but Orringer fulfills her ambitions with crisp writing that never wanders far from the story's path. World War II is hardly undiscovered literary territory. Still, this stunning work manages to feel both original and part and parcel of the well-blazed tradition of historical novels that came before it. A