Read The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein Online


A wonderfully charming memoir written when the author was 93, The Invisible Wall vibrantly brings to life an all-but-forgotten time and place. Bernstein offers a moving tale of working-class life, and of the boundaries that can be overcome by love....

Title : The Invisible Wall
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780345511867
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 321 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Invisible Wall Reviews

  • Jill
    2019-04-12 07:59

    I LOVE YOU, HARRY!Phew--what a great book. I haven't been that engrossed in - I don't know how long!If I grew up with a such a bastard of a father, and bitch of a sister (I hate you Rose), I would have...I don't know what I would have done--but it wouldn't have been pretty.Harry is able to convey all of the emotions attached to living on a 1/2 Jewish, 1/2 Christian street--all that you'd expect and more. When Lily's father drags her, by her hair, to the factory, thwarting her dream of becoming a teacher, I wanted to kill him myself.There's so much to this book--the epilogue will break your heart. I loved it and can't wait to read "The Dream."

  • David
    2019-04-01 03:55

    Harry Bernstein was 93 years old when he wrote this tender memoir about his childhood in Manchester, England in the years surrounding World War I. He narrates his family's story from a child's point of view growing up in a poor, working-class neighborhood. The Jewish families lived on one side of the street, and the Christians on the other with an "invisible wall" between. While they avoided the violence that would later oppress the Jews, they suffered persecution in more subtle ways (schoolyard anti-Semitism, also reflected among the adults). Occasional attempts to cross the wall, including romantic attractions between Christian boys and Jewish girls (one Harry's older sister), are fascinating. But some of the more poignant parts relate to the domestic struggles in Harry's home. He watches his drunken and overly authoratative father take out his frustration and anger on his daughters in scenes that are occasionally heart-wrenching; his mother struggling to hold the family together in their poverty and turmoil; his siblings trying to discover their individuality. And then the Jewish community as a whole trying to come to grips with changing times and traditions. This is a beautifully written and very touching memoir.

  • Judi Anne
    2019-04-18 04:57

    This memoir was started when Harry Bernstein was 93 and was published in 2007 when he was 96. It is the fascinating story, that reads like a novel, of his young life during World War One. In a small mill town in Lancashire, England, Harry’s selfless mother works hard to keep food on the table and shoes on the children. His gambling father has an angry and abusive manner that makes matters worse for the entire family. They live on the Jewish side of a cobblestone street facing the Christians on the other side. The two cultures almost never cross the invisible wall that divides them. Harry’s oldest sister Lily helps take some of the burden off of her mother by caring for the children. When Lily enters into a bittersweet love affair with a Christian man across the street they keep it a secret because they both know it will not bode well with either family.I listened to this audio book and the narration, which can make or break an audio book, was wonderful. The accents fondly reminded me of my son-in-law’s parents who live in northern England. There are so many words that I could use to describe this beautiful memoir and the words that immediately come to mind are insightful, courageous, joy and sorrow. In other words it is a memoir filled with emotion that will touch your soul.

  • Jean
    2019-04-06 10:06

    I found out about this book through my mother-in-law who knew Harry Bernstein as they lived in the same community in Brick, NJ. She obtained a signed copy for me, for which I am very grateful. This is a wonderful love story and it's true! Sort of a Romeo and Juliet I guess. One of the most amazing things about this book was that he wrote it in his late 90's (he died at the age of 101)and the details he remembers. He tells his life story as a Jewish boy growing up in England in the early 1900's when the Jews lived on one side of the street and the "Christians" on the other (the invisible wall). The circumstances and the hate (on both sides) was heart-wrenching yet the story is told without anger or bitterness. The main conflict is that his sister falls in love with the "wrong" guy and Harry is caught in the middle. Though there are some bright spots, dysfunctional families (aren't we all)reign throughout. A great book to read if we want to learn from history and what not to do, how not to treat one another. May write more later on this...

  • Jan Rice
    2019-03-25 06:07

    Here's the setup: Jews live on one side of the street and Christians on the other, and never the twain shall meet, in a town in England 100 years ago. A memoir, a cross-cultural love story ahead of its time.The narrator and author is Harry Bernstein, born in 1910 and four year old at the start. His side of the street is populated by families of recent immigrants escaping the pogroms in Eastern Europe. On his side of the street, the fathers toil in tailoring shops. The Christians on the other side are mill workers. All are poor. We get a time capsule of these people and their lives. Some are kind, some are not. Antisemitic slurs are par for the course, but also each Jewish family has a corresponding Christian who stirs up the fire and removes the cooking pot from the hearth on Friday nights. The Jewish kids have to cluster together to avoid getting beat up by batesemas (Christian bullies) on the way home from school, yet once when that does happen, the rescuer is an older and bigger Christian boy.At first there is a cautionary tale of another Jewish girl, a teenager on the same street, who has a Christian boyfriend, with little Harry as the go-between. When the girl is found out she gets summarily shipped off to relatives in Australia to avoid this disgrace worse than death (in fact, perceived as death). (view spoiler)[I have read about that elsewhere, about how until very recently it was the Jewish families who were likely to be the most adamant and set against intermarriage. And I wonder if it's like the thing about not proselytizing. We don't proselytize. Yet a couple thousand years ago in Second Temple times, we did. At some point for Jews to proselytize became against the law, a capital offense--and eventually it's as though we internalized the prohibition. (hide spoiler)]At first I wasn't paying much attention to the setting. London, I thought. But, no: it's Lancashire, now part of greater Manchester, if I've got that right. Right from the beginning, though, I was relating this book to another one I'm reading, a nonfiction about the industrial revolution in England, Liberty's Dawn: A People's History of the Industrial Revolution. That one's about the late 17th through the 18th and 19th centuries, but the focus is still the same: the working poor. When I looked up Manchester, I found it was at the forefront of the industrial revolution, the first industrialized city! But there are no Jews so far in Liberty's Dawn; I imagine their presence is a later development.By the era of the Great War, children are no longer going to work at five, six, or seven years old. They are now getting an elementary education; sounds like around what we call in the States seventh grade--around twelve or thirteen years old--corresponding well with the age of Jewish bar mitzvah. For Harry's father, though, it was a different story. Growing up in Poland, he was put to work at five years old, sent to various masters who abused him as they saw fit. And he became a violent and alcohol-abusing misfit to whom Harry's long-suffering mother was married off in a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate him, with very, very limited success.Some reviewers compare this book to Angela's Ashes, a popular book that I tried to read twice (in the past) but could not. I found it lugubriously boring. I will say this book has its share of tales of woe. Even the happy ending is laced with pain and sadness--except that the author did eventually emigrate to America. He did eventually realize his dream of becoming a successful writer and at 96 years of age, with this very memoir.At first I did have some trouble getting into this book. I had been attracted to it and one day back when I was a library volunteer at my synagogue I started it. But it just didn't seem as intriguing as I'd imagined. Maybe I was expecting to get into the love story right away, or maybe I'd been expecting the narrator, Harry, to be the protagonist in the love story. At any rate, I didn't go on to check it out. At some point, though, I'd picked up the audio version on sale from Audible. Maybe the time was right, or maybe this book works especially well as a story being told out loud, but whatever the reason this time I was hooked. I'm writing now with the checked-out book on the desk to my left.Not only does the reader, John Lee, get kudos for his effort but also I became interested in the various British accents. You see, I had a very diminished notion of British accents--either standard British English or something I might have considered "Cockney." Well! I found this neat Youtube presentation that says only three percent of British speak the "received pronunciation!" This helps! I can even begin to hear differences. (view spoiler)[When I watched more TV, I used to hate the homogenized versions of southern accents. Not like that at all! There are so many different southern accents. Think of S-Town, for example. The educated class are losing their regional accents, though. ...As far as I'm concerned, my southern accent isn't all that pronounced--but not according to my children! ...Several years ago I met a young British woman who did speak the received pronunciation, or that's how I'm remembering. Moving here as an adolescent, she was teased, so learned to speak American English perfectly, but she could return at will to her British accent. I was much impressed. (hide spoiler)].Here are a couple of reviews I found online, first from The New York Times in 2007, and then one from a group billing themselves as supporting interfaith families (although I notice that second one gets the time period of the book wrong):

  • K.D. Absolutely
    2019-04-15 07:06

    This is my 3rd book in this genre: memoirs, specifically boy's and I am becoming fond of it. Few years ago, Tata J told me to read ANGELA'S ASHES by the late Frank McCourt and it remains one of my all-time favorite books. Then early this year, he also lend me TOAST by Nigel Slater which I also found amazing (5 stars). Now, how could I not like THE INVISIBLE WALL by Harry Bernstein? It is a lot better than the latter - having a more serious theme (anti-Jews) and more poignant (having two tragic love stories between a Christian man and a Jew lady). However, the storytelling skills of McCourt is better than Berstein. The boy McCourt was more witty, innocent, alive and precocious despite being dirt-poor (remember excitement? and sick in the head?). The boy Bernstein was timid and shy (what will stick to my mind was his "Yis" for yes).There are two scenes here that I will remember many years from now: the suicide of Freddy and the one where the mother goes inside the platform to get spoiled fruits. The Jewish "Emmos adonnai" is also one phrase that I will also remember. It is a Jewish belief that if you say "Emmos adonnai" prior to a sentence or declaration, you can die if you right after, tell a lie. Bernstein's story in England started when he was 4 years old and he started writing this book in 1992 right after his wife died. This got published in 1997 when he was already 97 years old. I agree that with his unique experiences, he would surely remember them. However, if you look at the pictures, the poverty of his family was nothing compared to what majority of the Filipinos are currently experiencing. Someday, I hope I will also be able to write my own memoir and it I know it can surely compete with these three boys' memoirs. I can even say Emmos adonnai as part of own memoir's prologue.

  • Margaret Crampton
    2019-03-26 09:52

    This is a brilliant book written when the author was in his nineties and writtenAs well through the eyes of child. The detail and sense of place and understanding of complex relationships is remarkable. That he could remember his youth and childhood in such detail to paint such a vivid picture of bygone times of the backstreets of Manchester, the poverty, harshness anti Semitism, cruelty and triumph of love and humanity agains such odds is outstanding. This is one of the best books I have read this year and it will stay with me for a long time. I lived near Manchester inThe sixties and their were still remnants of the city Harry knew, though much destroyed to build high rise apartments with the consequent loss of community that the back toBack houses enjoyed.

  • Ubik 2.0
    2019-04-20 12:14

    …and no religion tooSpira un’aria alquanto antiquata dalle pagine di questo romanzo e non tanto per l’ambientazione negli anni ’10 del secolo scorso, quanto per lo stile risolutamente lineare, un po’ manierato e virato seppia, che fa dell’approccio semplice alle vicissitudini quotidiane di una famiglia del proletariato inglese, con troppi figli e pochi denari, una delle sue due cifre principali. L’altra risiede nella metafora portante, enunciata fin dal titolo e sottolineata lungo tutto il racconto: la barriera culturale e psicologica che divide la stradina dove tutto o quasi si svolge, separando le misere case ebree dalle altrettanto misere case cristiane, ognuna delle due comunità chiusa nei propri problemi e rituali sociali e religiosi, e guai a chi prova ad attraversare tale confine, invisibile ma estremamente resistente.Il racconto soffre, almeno ai miei occhi, l’inevitabile paragone con “Le ceneri di Angela” dove, con ben altra potenza temprata da una sapiente dose di ironia (qui del tutto assente), Frank McCourt descrive una vicenda molto simile, mediata anch’essa dallo sguardo di un bambino costretto dalle avversità della vita familiare ad una maturazione precoce, e nel quale si riverbera chiaramente il ricordo autobiografico dell’autore.Forse il mio giudizio su “Il muro invisibile” è troppo severo perché il quadro dipinto da Bernstein in definitiva risulta vivido e reale e non si insinua mai durante la lettura la tentazione di abbandonarlo, pur nella prevedibilità degli eventi narrati e dell’evoluzione dei caratteri, priva o quasi di sussulti, fino alla sarabanda del volemose bene nel prefinale, molto forzata nell’addolcire i caratteri più spigolosi e le inimicizie più resistenti.E’ l’epilogo invece a conferire una luce retrospettiva che fa rivalutare l’opera di Bernstein con una genuina malinconia che, finalmente e un po’ inaspettatamente, riesce ad instillare anche nel lettore più indifferente la commozione tenacemente perseguìta lungo tutto il romanzo.

  • Chrissie
    2019-04-12 10:50

    There is an overwhelming sense of nostalgie and melancholy throughout the entire book. The tone is too sombre for my tastes. The author, in his nineties looks back at his childhood in a small Lancashire village outside Manchester. More specifcally the book is about the invisible wall between the Jews living on one side and the Christians living on the other side. The book starts when the author is four and is centered around his older sister's love for a Christian boy on the other side of the street. The invisible wall between these two groups influences every aspect of their lives. So I ask, is it that invisible? There is so much that unites these two groups. Poverty, number one, and the repurcussions of WW1 and WW2. It is a very intimate portrayal, and oh so sad. The book starts and ends with an utterly beautiful depiction of the village, that you see and hear and smell in all its grime. The sound of the workers' clogs as they go off to work at the mill in the early morning and the reverse sounds as they return home in the evening is the fond recollection I will keep of this book. Nevertheless, the all pervading sense of gloom was too much for me. I feel like shaking them up. Even when something good happens they are not really HAPPY! Please, forget for just an instant the overall gloom. Even at the end, after seeing pending village improvements, poverty remains. And is that wall really torn down? I am not so sure. The tone of the book really does drag you down.

  • Connie
    2019-04-10 11:13

    The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers is a wonderful memoir written about growing up in the mill town of Manchester, England, in the early 20th Century. The author's family lived on the Jewish side of a narrow street while Christians lived on the other side, separated by an invisible wall. Harry's father is a tailor who drinks up most of his wages while his mother works hard at home, dreaming of a better future for her children. The Jews and the Christians rarely interacted socially, although the worries of World War I brought them to the middle of the street.Harry's older sister, Lily, fell in love with Arthur, a Christian young man from the other side of the street. They had to arrange secret meetings since their relationship was frowned upon. Lily's mother tried to get her to marry the new rabbi, or send her off to America to keep her away from Arthur. The love story of Lily and Arthur exerted an effect on the neighborhood as well as on their families.The author does a wonderful job of presenting the hopes, fears, and opinions of the families in the neighborhood. This delightful memoir is written with warmth, humor, and understanding.

  • Kathleen
    2019-03-22 12:13

    Harry has a hard life... Jewish and poor in England around WWI in a truly dysfunctional family. Little things bring him joy, many things in his life are scary. Each chapter provides a snapshot of the divided street, Jews on one side, Christians on the other. Harry paints a great picture of times gone by with horses, outhouses, and yet people warring against one another. One wonders how things have changed in the last century, when many considered WWI, the war to end all wars. I could identify with being the youngest and "protected" from information.

  • MonicaEmme
    2019-03-23 10:55

    Da due mesi faccio parte del gruppo di lettura del mio paese, che, però, si è formato circa tre anni fa, a mia insaputa, così, ora, sto cercando di recuperare una delle loro letture precedenti!Ho scoperto solo alla fine, documentandomi sull' autore, che il libro è autobiografico. Narra le vicende della sua vita da quando ha cinque anni all' adolescenza."Erano gli unici, nella nostra strada, possedere un grammofono, e lasciavano la porta di casa aperta perché tutti lo potessero ascoltare." Questa frase, presente, già nella prima pagina del libro mi ha dato un senso di nostalgia per come eravamo anche noi e non siamo più. Qui in Veneto si faceva il filò: la contrada si ritrovava nella stalla (dove c' era un po' di caldo) si chiacchierava, si spettegolava, le donne filavano la lana, gli uomini aggiustavano gli attrezzi da lavoro, si pregava ma soprattutto si stava insieme e c' era calore non solo dato dal fuoco, ma anche dalle persone. Anche in un libro che ho letto poco fa, Agnes Browne, il figlio della protagonista diventa "un gentile del fuoco" accendendolo, di sabato, per un uomo ebreo riesce a racimolare qualche soldo. Qui c'è un' intero gruppo di persone che si prodiga in questa azione benevola! Erano i tempi, come si leggerà dopo, in cui una bicicletta aveva un enorme valore! In cui la convivenza e l' aiuto reciproco erano importanti. L' impressione iniziale è stata che questo libro desse una grande lezione di umiltà. La famiglia di cui si parla è formata da cinque figli e da due genitori un po' stereotipati; la mamma dolce e cara, che se le brusca dal marito, lui un beone disinteressato ai figli. Il matrimonio porta a questa donna solo miseria e sofferenza. Un unico respiro agli affanni della situazione viene da Larry, l' unico amico del padre, che pensiona a casa loro, ma che dopo un litigio se ne andrà. La situazione non migliora quando, dopo studi immani, la sorella più grande, Lily, riesce a superare brillantemente un esame che le permetterà di diventare insegnante; infatti, il padre, la trascinerà fuori di casa per i capelli per relegarla a lavorare nella sua stessa sartoria.Poi, arriva la guerra. La guerra che livella la società, abbattendo il muro: mischiando poveri con ricchi, cristiani ed ebrei in una sospensione data dal pericolo imminente. Quando sul fronte terminano le ostilità, riprendono le avversioni nel quartiere. Alcuni non torneranno più a casa, altri, come Freddy, tornano orribilmente mutilati e si respira un' aria di sofferenza e morte. I tempi duri arrivano dopo la guerra: miseria e disoccupazione imperano. Quando il nostro protagonista ha dieci anni la situazione economica familiare migliora, ma il peso dell' essere ebrei è imponente. L' unico spiraglio di luce in questa cupa atmosfera è l' amore tra Arthur e Lily. È un sentimento forte che va contro i pregiudizi tra cristiani ed ebrei, come una sorta di Romeo e Giulietta. Sono socialisti in un luogo sbagliato e portano avanti i loro valori contro tutti. È una coppia fresca, vivace, che si appassiona in discussioni politiche, in un dibattito che non vede differenze tra uomo e donna, in contrasto fortissimo con i genitori di Lily, che parlano raramente tra di loro e solo di faccende pratiche, rivelando una forte chiusura mentale.Il nostro protagonista ha un padre al quale non ha mai rivolto la parola in tutta la vita ed una madre devota alla famiglia che si sacrifica per il bene dei figli. Tutto questo è portato all' esasperazione, o forse la situazione era davvero così estremizzata, ma mi sono infastidita. Io sono nata ottant'anni dopo quel periodo e non riesco a capacitarmi di come una donna si possa reprimere e umiliare tanto! Questa madre che, pur di evitare l' onta di un matrimonio sacrilego, passa sopra i sentimenti della figlia e si finge cieca e sorda a quell' amore mi irrita!Mi ha infastidito non poco anche il finale: festa in strada, birra, pacche sulle spalle, gran risate con questa sensazione di avere qualcuno all' orecchio che ti sussurra "tutto è bene quel che finisce bene" ! Dopo duecentonovanta pagine di disperazione, tutto si risolve nelle ultime venti pagine come se niente fosse! Però poi, tranquilli, nella prima parte dell' epilogo si viene, oso dire, quasi rassicurati da altre disgrazie!A questo libro strappalacrime assegno tre stelle. Sì, sono senza cuore! :)

  • Sally68
    2019-04-09 05:53

    "...arry"Appena finito di leggerlo, solo una parola...bello !!Harry, Lily, Arthur, sono solo alcuni dei nomi dei personaggi di questo libro che ho racchiuso nel mio cuore, per non dimenticare la signora Bernstein, grande donna.E ancora una volta sono le donne a essere grandi protagoniste, questa mamma, che siritrova da sola a dover crescere e mandare avanti un'intera famiglia, ben 6 figli, instancabile, fiera e coraggiosa e salda nei suoi principi.Siamo agli inizi del 1900 poco prima che scoppi la prima guerra mondiale, un libro autobiografico, raccontato con gli occhi e la dolcezza di Harry, 9 anni, guardatevila copertina del libro, per me bellissima.Racconta, in prima persona della sua infanzia, nel seno di questa famiglia e sopratutto di come è vivere in quella determinata strada, tra povertà, stenti e diverse ideologie.Una strada divisa da "un muro invisibile" che divide i cristiani dagli ebrei..È mancata la 5 stellina perche il finale buonista "da vissero felici e contenti" mi ha lasciata perplessa.."Si piegò sulla culla e prese il bambino in braccio e lo tenne stretto a sè, e ci fuun espressione sul suo viso che già le avevo visto prima, altre volte.Era stessa che aveva quando guardava il suo bambino, o uno chiunque di noi, ed erauno sguardo che solo una mamma può avere."

  • Darcy Gregg
    2019-04-19 06:56

    Can't say enough about this book, I couldn't wait to read it, then I found it hard to put down and thought about while not reading it and now I'm done can't wait to get my hands on the sequel. Thank you Harry for writing these wonderful stories and making us believe we can accomplish amazing things, even in our 90's! I know these books are based on his childhood which makes them all the more riveting. I'm very glad I've bought my own copy, its a re-read for sure. His mother is amazing and his love for his family shines through. The only thing that makes me sad is that the main topic is the anti-semitism and I fear 100 years later some places/people have not improved their attitudes.

  • Myla
    2019-03-24 03:54

    I kept thinking of Call the Midwife and Angela’s Ashes...kind of a mash up, but with Jews and Catholics instead. I liked it, it was a quick listen, not quite as tragic, but I think that’s because he didn’t write it with that focus. It was interesting that he lived through both wars, but didn’t personally serve in either. Very interesting childhood.

  • Melissa
    2019-04-03 11:07

    You are never too old to tell your story.And at the age of 96, Harry Bernstein did just that.Growing up in Manchester, England on the eve of World War I, Harry details in stunning prose the “invisible wall” that divides his neighborhood – that of Christians on one side and Jews on the other. His father a drunk, and his mother providing for 5 children (eventually 6), Harry’s childhood was filled with poverty, depravity, and neglect, but also a genuine amount of love.More often than not, neither side of the street would have anything to do with one another. On the occasion of the Jewish Sabbath, a “goy” (or Christian neighbor) would cross the street to perform the necessary duties (light a fire, put a pot on to boil), in order for the Jews to keep strict Sabbath day observance. But that was the extent, for the most part, of their interactions.The seriousness of this divide was made evident when a Jewish neighbor, Sarah, fell in love with a Christian, Freddy. When the romance was discovered, “shivah,” or mourning of the dead, was performed by Sarah’s family, and she was exiled to Australia.It is miraculous that Mr. Bernstein can recall in such vivid detail the scenes from his early childhood. He is exact when remembering his home, his mother, the dialogue between his mother and siblings, the beatings he took from the bullies on the street. His portrait of his father is menacing…and we learn that after his mother died, Harry never saw him again. Ultimately, this was the story of Harry’s sister Lily, and her own romance with Arthur (a Christian), that grabs hold of your heart and won’t let you go. Determined to break with religion, tradition, and risk all that they have, including their lives, for love, Arthur and Lily forge their own way in this very structured society. Harry’s portrayal of how their love bridges the divide is truly magnificent.Sadly, Mr. Bernstein died two weeks ago at the age of 101.He published two other works, The Dream, which chronicles his life once he emigrated to America, and The Golden Willow, about his life with his wife of 67 years, Ruby.I was touched by this story.But even more so by Mr. Bernstein, that even at the age of 96, you can still grab hold of your dreams.

  • Analee Harris
    2019-04-16 09:06

    I loved this book! Although it is a memoir it was an easy read and felt more like a novel which made it even more enjoyable for me. It was educational for me to learn more about the prejudices between Jewish and Christian neighbors through WWI era in England. I also found it humanizing in being able to see that despite cultural/religious difference people are very much the same in their basic desires and needs. It made me contemplate my own actions and thoughts towards others who seem different from me on the outside and led me to ponder whether I am treating them with the respect and love all members of the human family have a right to.

  • Becky
    2019-04-04 03:57

    I think I read that someone called this book a sweet memoir; it is not that. It also does not seem to be "a love story that broke barriers" as we are only just barely acquainted with the love story. What it is is a story of poverty, abuse, and a time and place where religious divisions took place. The good or interesting parts of the book included details about Jewish life that I didn't know about, like having a fire goy, the rather sweet relationship between Harry and his mother, and that a portion of the book took place during WWI (which I have considered as a topic for book club since the war started 100 years ago this year). The parts of the book I didnt enjoy were many: the family relationships were horrible; the father was a terrifying drunk, who was likely mentally ill, his back story was awful, Lily and Rose were terrible to their mother, and the mother was trapped in this world of poverty, abuse and religious belief/expectation. It was downright depressing and very difficult to keep reading at many points.Also, I do see a parallel in how Jews would sit Shiva for their children who married a goy and current issues parents have when their children live lifestyles that conflict with their religious beliefs. It is like Arthur said in the book: we are not so different from one another.

  • Amy
    2019-03-31 08:06

    This is a truly charming "misery memoir" that ends with hope. There are several things that amaze me about this book:1. That Harry Bernstein had a keen enough mind and talent to write a book when he was 93 years old (published when he was 96).2. That Harry Bernstein had a keen enough mind to recall memories from the age of four (or earlier?). I guess I always thought that our early childhood memories would fade with time, especially after several decades. I suppose those experiences can be so poignant that they don't fade with time or old age.3. That Harry Bernstein played some significant roles in his little neighborhood (two secret romances and a suicide!). He seems like a chap that everyone liked and trusted.4. And mostly what I keep learning in life is that you can have bad things happen to you, but you don't have to turn out bad. Goodness can be found and cultivated anywhere.I'm left with at least two questions about Harry's life after this book:1. How did Harry's family get the money to pay for a trip to America?2. Is Harry's wife Ruby Jewish, and did they stay firm in their faith? I spent some minutes googling this, but I never found the answer.I guess I'll have to read the books Bernstein wrote afterwards. Has anyone read them? Should I spend my time doing so just to find the answers to my questions?

  • Margaret
    2019-03-25 09:56

    An incredibly touching and tragic memoir published when the author was in his 90s, but telling the experiences he had as a young boy growing up as a Jew in England just before and after World War I. The Invisible Wall refers to the street on which he lived -- Jews lived on one side, Christians on the other. In the prologue, author Harry Bernstein says, "It was a quiet little street, hardly noticeable among all the other larger streets, but what distinguished it from all the others was the fact that we live don one side, and they on the other. We were the Jews and they were the Christians. Actually what we had here was a miniature ghetto, for there was an invisible wall between the two sides, and though the distance from one side to the other, geographically, was only a few yards, the streets being very narrow, the distance socially could have been miles and miles." I was intrigued, amazed and sometimes shocked at the prejudices both groups had for one another...the taunts, the violence, the disdain that came from both sides. I enjoyed Bernstein's style of writing. He truly is an inspiration...not many people have their first novel published when they in the 90s. The sequel, "The Dream" was published in 2008. I can't wait to read that, as well.

  • Melanie
    2019-03-21 04:58

    This book is the first in a series of memoires and was published when the author was 96 - an astounding 92 years after the book itself begins. And not only was this book an interesting look at life in small-town Yorkshire in the early 20th century, showing a whole host of difficulties which were everyday life for the majority of the population back then, but it also pulls you in and makes you truly care for the characters.Then, in the last few pages, it stomps all over your heart.But in spite of that I still really enjoyed this book! It was often heart-warming, and you can feel how real it is. Huge recommendations.This is also the first book I've every come across/noticed where we're told the type-face: Minion, apparently. Though probably not the Minions which are currently upper-most in many people's minds...Randomness aside: read this book!

  • Michelle
    2019-04-16 11:15

    Apart from being a fascinating glimpse into the religion barriers that shaped an early twentieth-century impoverished British industrial community, the narration is surprisingly innocent and pure. Bernstein, writing in his 90s, remembers a past almost a century old. Yet his five year old self paints a story in such beautifully refreshing tones that the tragedies of want, fear, bitterness, and betrayal are tempered with the hopeful view of childhood. Not to say that the tragic parts of the memoir are not dramatic. On the contrary, the same childlike perspective also allows for a stark understanding of moments of despair. Bernstein dedicates this book to his "angel mother" and adequately creates such a being in his pages. Through it all she manages to love her husband, a man no one else can help but loathe. She is able to see in him something that even he could not see. Yes, the story of Jewish Lily and Christian Arthur is the the love story the subtitle touts, and it is a good one, but the book reveals more loving relationships than that one. Ultimately it is a story of family and the intangible ties that bind families together.

  • Valerie Campbell Ackroyd
    2019-04-03 12:03

    My grandfather came from a Lancashire mill town and so I was immediately drawn into Bernstein's description of life there. I felt that I was sitting at his knee, listening as he told story after story about growing up. Some of the stories would break off suddenly--like the story of Florrie and Mrs. Green's great fight--and Bernstein would go off onto another story. Much like an elderly person reminiscing. Which, for me, made the book all the more poignant. Bernstein's point of view, as a young boy growing up Jewish in a street that was both Jewish and Christian, fascinated me. And the events that he was privy to--family ugliness and tenderness, witnessing the effects of World War I on families, a love story that went sour, a love story that triumphed over religious barriers--were events that I could relate to as age-old human themes told in yet another voice. It may not be great literature but it is great human history.

  • Nikie Elwood
    2019-04-19 07:04

    I thought this book was beautiful, poignant, tragic and melancholy all wrapped together in this memoir by 93-year (at the time of its writing) old Harry Bernstein. He recounts his life in a poor, working-class neighborhood near Manchester, England in the early 1900's. He tells of growing up Jewish with the invisible wall being the street that divides them from the Christians on the other side. It's a story of a dysfunctional family, of bigotry that cuts both ways, of World War I, love and forgiveness. It's not a happy book, but so worth the read.

  • Jimmy Jones
    2019-04-20 10:55

    I enjoyed the book immensely, but it was constantly disturbing and challenging. The book deals with a neighborhood with Christians and Jews living on different sides of the street in a poor section of an English town. Many difficulties, adventures and conflicts arise throughout the book. I am trying not to give too much away. A final comment: Those of us who have strong faith and beliefs struggle with those who have different beliefs that are just as strong. Read the book!

  • Michael Decamp
    2019-04-04 11:11

    I thoroughly enjoyed this look into the life of a young boy and the culture of his impoverished Jewish family in the Pre and post WW1 England. Wondrously well-written and intriguing, it grabbed my heart and hung on. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves history and learning the viewpoints of those who have been raised in another time or another culture. It is a memoir that reads like a novel.

  • Kimberly
    2019-03-23 09:16

    Definitely worth reading. A memoir about a little Jewish boy in England during WWI. His side of the street is Jewish and the other side is Christian. The Jews' and Christians' lives do mix in some respects--they go to the same school, shop at the same candy store--but are completely separate in other respects. The major plot development is when Harry's older sister falls in love with a Christian boy. A very well written book. A meaningful story.

  • Terris
    2019-04-18 11:01

    I loved this amazing story written by a 96-year-old man (his first book!). He tells the story of his family living in a village in England in the early 1900's, in which the people who lived on one side of the street were Christian and the people living on the other side were Jewish. Therein lies "the invisible wall." His family was Jewish. He tells of some of the persecution the Jewish families endured in the neighborhood, and he and his friends at school. But the major part of the story was about his family and the traumas and dramas that they went through, many of them because they were Jewish. And, of course, a Jewish girl would never fall in love--would never be allowed to fall in love, with a Christian boy.... but what happens if she does? Well, Harry will tell you.A lot of the time the story is sad, but somehow Harry Bernstein tells the story in a way that makes you also feel the joy in their poverty-ridden lives, and makes you want to keep reading. In 1922, when Harry is 12 years old, his family moves to Chicago. Bernstein, at the age of 98, wrote his next book "The Dream: A Memoir" of this time in his life. And I think I'm going to have to read it next! I highly recommend this author!

  • Kristen
    2019-04-09 06:00

    This book reminded me of Angela’s Ashes in so many ways only this time a poor Jewish family in England instead of a poor Catholic family in Ireland. Bernstein writes about his childhood street in a small English mill town- one side Jewish, one side Christian during World War I. Amazingly, he finally wrote his story at ninety-six years old. How he remembered such vivid details is beyond me. (I can hardly remember what I did yesterday). So much of the story is tragic- the cruel alcoholic father, the poverty, the defeated mother, a forbidden love affair. Bernstein captures the daily dramas on the streets while tapping into the chaos and commotion of a world rejecting the status quo.

  • Marianne Franks
    2019-04-14 04:12

    This is hard for me to rate. I liked it when I was listening but it took me about 3 months to finish. I could NOT get into it for some reason. 🤷‍♀️