“He allowed himself to imagine for the first time
that the rest of his life might not be shaped
by the misery of his past.”
― Julie Orringer, The Invisible Bridge
For the past year, I’ve been circling back to the thirties and forties. Drawn to the past.
Every book and every movie I pick, seem to come back to that time.
I haven’t been a book-reviews-sort-of-person, yet there’s this particular work of fiction that keeps nudging at me to tell you about it. Don't let the 600 pages frighten you.
It’s worth every word.
When I bought it, I did expect to love it. It centers around my “hometown”. Budapest.
I can connect the streets on the page to my life. To cafés where I’ve had coffee. To hotels I've slept in, lights I've marveled at and music I've heard. Reading about it, I can feel the overwhelming sense of joy of just being there.
Even when the characters go through the darkest past, I can see the present light.
The book tells the story of Andras, a Hungarian in his early twenties who travels across Europe to study architecture in Paris. Here, he falls in love. With his work, the city and the girl of his dreams.
We follow his life.
The war, though looming in the distance, is not the focal point.
What's happening in Germany is mentioned briefly.
Like today, when we read news articles about something far away from us.
We frown, we wonder and then go on our merry way. We’re certain it won’t happen here. We go back to parties, food, love, friendships, cafés, books, the sweet, warm and mundane.
It’s the same in Andras’s Paris. But war is on the horizon.
And even worse, Andras is Jewish. At the worst time to be Jewish in Europe.
So are his friends, his family and the woman he loves.
It’s heartbreaking knowing the inevitable.
I know what's coming. They don't.
Most fiction describing the holocaust goes into the unbelievable evil.
Introducing their characters, they’re then thrown in the deep end. With them, we experience their life while the devil has them.
Here’s where this story differs. It’s why it moved me so deeply.
The focus is on the people and their life before. The normalcy of their lives.
You can easily get lost, thinking it’s taking place now.
The world back then, was not that different from ours
The people back then, were no different from us.
It’s a feeling I can’t shake.
-----brief pause -----
I started writing this post while in Sweden (my official home) and now, as I'm editing, sifting through it with my eyes peeled, I'm in Budapest (my unofficial, emotional home).
Sitting in a bistro-type-place, enjoying a glass of wine.
This book grows. I keep thinking about Andras and his family (because the characters got so vivid, calling them characters almost feels offensive).
I see old, dark, dilapidated, once gorgeous, buildings and I wonder:
”Were you here when they were?
Did you see the killings, the ghetto, the pain, the punishment, the evil on earth?
Did you see?”
I passed one of the city's synagogues today. A haunting feeling.
It, or a former rendition of it, were probably here when evil came to power.
It's Sunday early evening, beyond the lounge music I can hear the St Istvan Basilica church bells.
And I think: I am so grateful. I am so lucky. We are so lucky.
And the Invisible Bridge is not just a great book.
It’s a bridge to the past.
Fiction and history are two elements that inspire my songwriting the most. Do you yearn for some energy in you creative work?
Download my behind-the-scenes-kit. There’s a worksheet for your creative adventures in there.