I reviewed The Invisible Bridge, Julie Orringer’s doorstop romance about Hungarian Jews in WWII, for Time Out New York this week.
One thing I wish I could have communicated better is that I am really, truly impressed with Orringer’s ability to write 600 pages, make 90% of it compelling and have only a handful of real clunker lines. I don’t think I’d even say Gravity’s Rainbow is “90% compelling,” and I’m a Pynchon fan.
So it’s a terrific structural achievement. I couldn’t write a novel that long, let alone make it as enjoyable or engaging. But—as I tried to say in the review—it feels like all the authorial energy was channeled into creating this impeccably smooth 600-page ride, leaving the characters and relationships feeling kind of limp and unworthy of real emotional investment. The style is strong but ironed-out in that, I don’t know, New Yorker way, where nothing sounds or feels awkward but nothing jumps out at you, either. To make a false binary: I’m reading Wolf Hall right now—another several hundred-page period piece—and Mantel turns out unlikeable images and unwieldy sentences every once in a while. But she just as often writes incredibly breathtaking passages, the kind that simultaneously make you want to be a writer, and to give up writing entirely knowing you’ll never be as good.
Invisible Bridge feels… disappointing, in some sense, partly because it’s so long but doesn’t have the same kind of gut-punch stylistic/emotional payoff that Pynchon and Mantel are so good at providing. But I would never, ever call itbad. Or unimpressive. It would make a great “beach read,” though. As I imagine “beach reads” to exist.
I remember Max having this book with him on the subway and recall us being amazed by how fat it was. You should read his review as it is probably more interesting than me marveling over a book being longer than Go, Dog, Go!