In a story that takes us from the elegance of Paris, through the streets of Budapest and on into the Hungarian countryside and the Ukraine this is an epic tale, masterfully told. It is 1937 and Andras Levi, a young Hungarian Jewish student, is about to leave his brother Tibor to go and study architecture in Paris. Andras’ story unfolds first amongst the beautiful buildings of Paris, the theatres and the bars, as he struggles in his studies and falls in love with a beautiful ballerina who has a terrible secret to hide. As the tragedy of World War 2 edges ever closer to Andras, the book moves back to Hungary, to the little village where Andras and his brothers grew up, to Budapest where his new family live and then on into the forced labour camps across Hungary.
Julie Orringer’s first book was a collection of short stories, about childhood and adolescence, grief and vulnerability. I loved her light touch, and the emotional intensity she managed to work into her stories. It has been seven years since that was published, and this looks, at first glance, to be an entirely different sort of book altogether. Yet for all its historical weightiness it is, once again, an emotional, moving piece of writing. Albeit 600 pages worth of it this time!
Read the rest of my review for The Bookbag