Yes, this might possibly be (i.e., definitely is) yet another World War II book review that you by now have probably come to expect from me; but before you groan in utter dismay, tell me the last time you read about cougars (i.e., those “mature” woman that essentially rob the cradle in the name of love – or at least in the name of a one night stand), architecture, Paris nightlife, and WWI all in one book?! I’m betting never!
Until now. Andras Lévi, a Jewish student, leaves Hungary to attend an architecture school in Paris. Before he leaves Budapest, he is given a mysterious letter to deliver to a woman he does not know in Paris. This woman, Clara, a sophisticated ballet teacher with a rebellious teenage daughter, just so happens to be the man eating cougar mentioned above. Minor confession: I may have perhaps overstated Clara’s cougarish ways… such that she does not (initially) see Andras as a hunky piece of meat to pounce on, and even if she does feel a certain attraction to him, she is certainly not prepared to act on it. The obvious age difference (one that her daughter at first finds completely appalling) isn’t the only barrier; she also has a mysterious secret that prevents her from getting too close to anyone. So, to be completely honest, Clara is probably more akin to a reserved, refined, Persian housecat than an on-the-prowl cougar. Small details though, right?
Of course, the exciting life Andras is leading in Paris, filled with success at school and a flourishing love for an older woman, is too good to go on unchecked for long; he is Jewish, after all. One day, Andras learns that his student Visa is expiring and he must return home to Hungary to get it renewed. However, in Hungary, he is faced with more bad news: not only will he not be allowed to return to school in Paris, he is shipped off a labor camp where he is pushed to his physical and mental limits. Suddenly, all the things that Andras had so fervently loved in his life – Clara, his brothers, his family’s home, the architectural education he was pursuing – are put at risk. With so many uncertainties in his life, compounded with the hardships Andras faces as a soldier, he gradually loses hope in a future that had once seems so bright.
I found myself completely entranced by this book (as I do most World War II books). However, unlike many of its kind, the war was almost secondary to the main storyline of Andras and his brothers building a future for themselves, especially in the beginning to middle. While the War interjected sporadically at first, as the story progressed the role it played gradually gained momentum, allowing the reader to become invested in Andras and Clara’s love story first and foremost before getting carried away with the war.
There is definitely some heavy subject matter addressed in these pages, so if you are looking for light summer reading, you’ll definitely want to look elsewhere. However, if you want to be inspired by the grace with which these characters repeatedly handle the hardships they are dealt, then The Invisible Bridge is the book for you. After all, there are only so many Nicholas Sparks and Chelsea Handler books you can read before you need something with a little more substance (I hope). And this is a story that fits the bill.
Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars