Burning Hungary’s Bridges. Not really

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In the words of my Hungarian colleagues, Oh Istenem. I finished The Invisible Bridge last night. Late last night. Like at 11:50 p.m. All 758 pages of it. I feel like I have a new favorite book and I’m going to recommend the crap out of it and I will adore this copy forever and forever. I may be a little dramatic. Not really. I feel strongly about this book. I love this book for several reasons.

#1. It’s historical fiction. I have always had a little bit of a soft spot for historical fiction. Especially World War 2 historical fiction. I have this morbid fascination with war. World War 2 and the American Civil War in particular. I once sat in a café overseas and told a guy who has a degree in History that my senior paper for my history minor was on African descent radicalism in World War II with an emphasis on African Americans and he looked at me and goes “I don’t even know where to go with that”. So I love studying and reading about war.

#2. It’s about a Hungarian and mostly takes place in Hungary with it always going back to Budapest. (for the most part.) I complained about it a lot but I love Hungary. I told my mom recently that I feel like I should be getting ready to go back to Hungary now. I have a lot of friends that are going back over seas and I’m a little jealous. And I was in major prepare mode last August and I feel like I should be doing that again.

For those of you who haven’t read this book. Let me tell you about it in my own words. Andras is a Hungarian Jew who goes off to Paris in 1937. He ends up delivering a letter and eventually meets a woman who he delivers the letter to. Eventually World War 2 erupts and Andras is back in Budapest. The rest of the book is during the war. For me, I was at a loss for words to describe what this book is really about. But I’m going to go with what it says on the cover from the Los Angeles Times; “Profound love, familial bonds and the deepest of human loyalties lay out against the [story] of a life powerfully, unsentimentally ad inspiringly evoked.” So it’s a story about love and family. Those coincide.

I almost have no words for this book. It tore at my heart a lot and made me remember Hungary fondly and smile and not smile. There’s a lot of emotions I got with this book. Every time I saw a Hungarian name or place that I knew, I was excited. I knew some of the Hungarian words that were used and I instantly I mentally raised my arms and yelled in my head “I WIN!!!!” I cried with the sad parts and smiled when there was something good like a child was born.

The one thing that I noticed and was a little put off by was that in Paris, when a Hungarian knowingly met another Hungarian, they didn’t say their names like a Hungarian. They didn’t say surname then the given name. In the book it was given name, surname. Even between Hungarians.

Two things that really stood out after the war started. Andras having to eat the paper and Tibor’s death. I was disgusted by being made to eat their paper. But what bothered me more was Tibor’s death. I really wanted to cry and deny that Tibor had died. Tibor didn’t only seem like Andras’ big brother but he seemed like my older brother too. He looked after Andras, he gave advice, Andras sought Tibor’s approval. I do that with my brother. I do it subconsciously. Andras does too. I think that Tibor is my favorite character. And you find out what happens to Ilana and their baby and you’re like this the worst story ever. But the best books evoke your emotions. They make you weep and laugh. I did want to weep and laugh. The book cover was right when it talked about being about family. They kept the familial ties as much as they could. The three brothers (there is another brother. The baby of the three.) kept together and in contact as much as possible. I liked that and that it wasn’t all about the romance. Because the romance isn’t the only thing that’s part of life. Books where romance is the only thing aren’t realistic to me.

I felt frustrated by Klara and Andras’ relationship at times at the beginning. Andras wasn’t even supposed to be with Klara. He was supposed to be with her daughter Elizabet. At first, I was like damn cougar. Then I realized that there was still 5 years between Andras and Elizabet and Klara had Elizabet was 15 when she had Elizabet. It made me more okay with it. I was also frustrated by how she pushed Andras away. I didn’t understand and I thought it was because of the age difference. But it wasn’t. You hear Klara’s story and you start sympathizing with her. She’s definitely not had it easy. But then you find out what else is going on with Zoltan…..mmmmhmmmm. Their life is very dramatic in Paris. Budapest and getting married was the right decision for them. It pretty much calmed them down. That and war broke out. War has a way of maturing people, especially when they have to do hard manual labor.

There’s a few extra characters in the book. But I’ll just go over a couple. Hated Zoltan. I know there had to be an antagonist for Andras but I hated how he didn’t have any remorse about what his wife did to Klara. They were together for 11 years and then all of a sudden his wife’s being horrible (kept my language PG there) and it’s like ‘yeah she did that like 2 years ago and you didn’t know. Wow you’re dense’. I was okay when he died.

Polaner, I didn’t get in the beginning. Like I didn’t understand why he was part of the book. Yeah he was a friend but I didn’t get why he kept coming up until the end. Then I got it. He’s useful.

The war is another character in this book. All the characters are living in constant fear of what could happen to them due to them being Jewish. I don’t blame them. I’d be terrified. Especially if the men in my life could be called up to be in labor camps like these men were. Every time they talk about the bridges at the end, I kept singing OneRepublic’s “Burning Bridges”. It was the song everyone was requesting on Twitter so they did it. I saw them perform that live in Budapest. I was with a group of Americans. One of the guys mentioned that it could be because Hungary gets burning bridges. It’s true. I don’t want to go into it here and now but look at WWII. But war is horrible and I think that this book does an okay job a portraying war from someone who isn’t directly in combat. I haven’t been in the same situation that Andras or any of the characters are in. So it’s different. It also broke my heart that the Jews weren’t considered Hungarian. At that time, who were they going to culturally relate to? The Nazis kind of booted them out of everywhere. It’s horrible. Could say more about that, but won’t. That’s another post.

I could talk about this book forever. But I won’t. Go read it. Next review should be soon.

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