You know how those Holocaust movies come out every few years, and they are very serious-minded, and everyone gives them awards because, let's face it, it's pretty easy to make a compelling movie when you've got a story with this kind of dramatic weight to tell, but sometimes, if you're being honest, you think "oh man, not another one," which is horrible, because these stories were based on things that really happened, terrible things, and am I an asshole for thinking that I just can't sit through yet another movie with a scene of a bunch of people crying and being shoved onto train cars, and you honestly can't even say if the movie is good or not anymore because at this point it's all just formulaic button pushing? This is that movie, but as a book. And instead of lasting two or three hours, it's however long it takes you to read 600 pages. I feel a little bad about giving this book two stars. I mean: laudable topic (Holocaust, can't argue with that), impeccably researched (and it shows), epic in scope (I mean, 600+ pages!), first-time novel from an author with some chops.Except. Except.I really enjoyed about half of this book. It's an epic in the David Lean sense of the word. If it was published in the '50s, he would have directed it right after he made Dr. Zhivago. Wartime romance, and all that those words entail. And the first half, which is all setup, I actually really enjoyed. We meet our lead characters, architectural student Andras and his mysterious love interest Klara, who themselves meet cute (mysterious letters are involved) in Paris in 1938 and carry on a tortured romance for the ages. It's pretty much basically Twilight: "We must be together! We can't be together! I love you! We can never be! Make me into a vampire!" It's totally cheesy, but it kind of works, mostly because Julie Orringer is so fabulous at creating a sense of place. Reading this so made me want to travel back in time and be a bohemian in Paris. You know, back when poor people could afford to live in the Latin Quarter.Oh, but then the war starts, and you really start to feel those 600 pages. The first half covers a a bit over a year in 300 pages, but the last 300 cram in the entire war, and things quickly dissolve into one clearly factual, historically accurate outrage after another (work camp, worse work camp, even worse work camp, taken away on trains in the night, etc. etc.) and reading it is just... miserable. By the end, I honestly could not wait to be done with it.Aside from Andras and Klara, the cast of characters is pretty flat, and reading all the horrors they suffer through is oddly numbing instead of provoking. I mean, I learned a lot about Hungary during the Holocaust, how the Jews were relatively safe most of the war (though the men were sent to labor camps, for the most part the population lived freely in the country and avoided the death camps), how things quickly became unimaginably horrible only a few months before Hitler's death. But all the repetitive DETAIL, ugh, it just totally removes all feeling from the story, which is odd because the epilogue makes it pretty clear this is the story of the author's family. The carefully crafted prose is so crammed full it feels turgid instead of poetic, and it's doubly distracting because you can feel it reaching for poetry, and getting a little purple in the process.So yeah, 2 stars. Laudable. But I wouldn't suggest reading it or anything.