The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  7,212 ratings  ·  1,329 reviews
On the eve of World War I, in a small English mill town, Harry Bernstein's family struggles to make ends meet. Harry's father earns little money at the Jewish tailoring shop and brings home even less, preferring to spend his wages drinking and gambling. Harry's mother, devoted to her children and fiercely resilient, survives on her dreams: new shoes for young Harry, her da...more
Paperback, 297 pages
Published February 12th 2008 by Ballantine Books (first published 2006)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jill
Aug 29, 2008 Jill rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Every Living Person (and some dead)
Recommended to Jill by: Sandy
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...more
David
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...more
Judi/Judith Riddle
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 t...more
Jean
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 w...more
Chrissie
Aug 19, 2010 Chrissie rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Chrissie by: People who don't mind a melancholy read!
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 st...more
Kathleen
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 wi...more
Becky
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 por...more
Anna
Rating: 4.5

I don't have a little brother, but if I did, I would want him to be like Harry. A librarian recommended this to me, knowing how much I like this kind of stuff and I was not disappointed.
(some minor spoilers included)
What makes the story the most is the people. I mean, the way their religion, background, and personality.
Harry - a sweet little Jewish boy who tells the story
Lily - Harry's intelligent Socialist sister, who has been deeply in love with a Christian since she was 12. (the ch...more
Margaret
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 t...more
Michelle
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...more
K.D. Absolutely
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 l...more
Nikie Elwood
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 forgiv...more
Kimberly
Apr 04, 2008 Kimberly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone--especially if interested in history
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.
Mike Decamp
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.
Jackie
I have little expectations when I read a memoir now, having been tainted by so many that were found to be almost complete fabrications.
Three stars for the story, and a bonus star for a 96 year old man who can remember enough of his first 12 years to create a book, since I can barely remember what I wore yesterday :) even if the story was embellished a little, it was still a good story.
This is a story of Harry, raised in poverty, abuse, and bigotry in a small English town, where Jews live on on...more
Melanie
Written at the age of ninety-two, Harry Bernstein tells the true life story of his childhood in The Invisible Wall.

The memoir takes place in a small working town in England during the early 1900s. Being Jewish, Harry and his family, along with all the other Jewish neighbors live on one side of the street, while the Christians live directly across on the other. Even though all the neighbors (both Jewish and Christian) live under the same circumstances (poverty), there is an invisible wall that d...more
Cindy
Bernstein was 93 years old when he wrote this memoir, (his first book) of his childhood in an English mill town. For those readers who require that their books be firmly grounded in time and place, The Invisible Wall will be a delight. Little Harry describes the segregated working class neighborhood he grew up in—Christians on one side of the narrow cobble-stone street, Jews on the other—with the kind of detailed observation that comes naturally to children, but is generally lost as one grows ol...more
Clare
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Suzanne
Our street was smaller than most. It had just one long row of houses on one side, and two smaller rows of equal combined length on the other, intersected by another street called Brook Street. It sloped slightly on a hill that began far up in the better section of town. 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 lived on one side, and they lived on the other. We were the Jews and they w...more
Gretchen
Today as my mother, my aunt, and I sat around the table, my aunt was telling a story about how when she was in England she saw where Anne Boleyn was buried. "I wish I had followed my mother's advice and written down everything, so that I could remember exactly what I saw and what the tour guide said." My aunt is currently 74.

Harry Bernstein was 93 when he began writing this memoir of the early years of his life. The book begins when Harry is a small child, about five years old. Harry has two old...more
Melanie
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...more
Juli
Oct 19, 2008 Juli rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone. :)
I'm completely and totally in love with this book already and was from the very first page. It's a memoir of a 97-year-old man Jewish man of his childhood in pre-WWI Lancashire England, and the love story of his sister and a Christian boy from the other side of the street (or, the "invisable wall" separating the Jews and the Christians in this very poor part of the city.) Brilliant. I can't put it down. Well, I have, but just barely. :P I also snuck and read the interview with the author at the...more
BarbaraNathalie
Although I am not Jewish, I have been reading books about them since I was eight years old. I have read many historical pieces and memoirs dealing with the holocaust. When I read The Invisible Wall in 2007, I was introduced to another area where differences among people cause pain, heartache, and disadvantage in the world. In a poor part of England, it is sad that people don't find ways to help each overcome the "stuff" in their environment to make a better life for everyone.

However, that is the...more
Grace
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Melissa
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 s...more
K
I felt like I was reading the Jewish Angela's Ashes. Poverty, alcoholism, abuse, dysfunction, a different time and place vividly remembered and evoked by an old man writing from a child's perspective. Harry Bernstein writes about his difficult childhood as a Jewish boy in World War I Lancashire, England, where an "invisible wall" divides the Jews and Christians in the neighborhood. It is against this backdrop that Harry's sister falls in love with a Christian boy, causing consternation among bot...more
Jane
Wow. I'd thought I'd reviewed/recorded this book, but when I was looking at my "read" books just now, it wasn't among them. I actually can't recall exactly when I read this book, but it's one of the best I've read in a long time.

Details are now a bit fuzzy for me, but Harry Bernstein (who was in his 80s when he wrote this) is an incredible writer who made me feel an immediacy about everything he was describing. The "invisible wall" is the dividing line between the Jewish and Christian families...more
Jessie
Feb 06, 2009 Jessie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Jessie by: trisha
I read this book for my book club. We are discussing it next week. If you are in my book club, you should not read this review. You'll find out what I think about it next week.
This was a nonfiction book about a young jewish boys childhood. His life on a little street in England. How one side of the street were the Jews and the other was the Christians. I learned a lot about the jewish religion. I am glad I am not jewish, but I bet some people who read a book about Mormons would think the same. A...more
Diane
My mother loaned this book to me and I had it on my bookshelf for a while before picking it up. I'm sorry I waited so long. I really thought the book was fascinating at describing the relationships between the Jewish and Christian families living on the same street in England just before and during WWI. His life and the lives of his family are sad yet full of hope. His mother was an amazing woman who sacrificed herself for her family, yet found the sacrifice worthwhile as long as her children ca...more
Rene
The author captured heartbreak and sadness effectively in this book as well as the feelings between the Christians and the Jews and what life was like on a street that was divided right down the middle of the two religious groups.

I think this will make for a good discussion in a book group.

The story emphasizes the effect one or two people can have on others---examples include the father, the mother, Lily, Rose, the rabbi, Arthur.

My only quibble with the book is that it is in the voice of a youn...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Invisible Wall comment 4 65 Jan 18, 2014 11:17AM  
  • Bending Toward the Sun: A Mother and Daughter Memoir
  • The Jew Store
  • Mosaic: A Chronicle of Five Generations
  • The Children of Willesden Lane: Beyond the Kindertransport:  A Memoir of Music, Love, and Survival
  • The Story of a Life
  • The Seamstress
  • Two Rings: A Story of Love and War
  • Rachel Calof's Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains
  • Gertruda's Oath: A Child, a Promise, and a Heroic Escape During World War II
  • Change Me into Zeus's Daughter: A Memoir
  • Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard
  • Blackbird: A Childhood Lost and Found
  • This Has Happened: An Italian Family in Auschwitz
  • Nine Suitcases: A Memoir
  • The Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father's Nazi Boyhood
  • The Girls of Room 28: Friendship, Hope, and Survival in Theresienstadt
  • What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir
  • The Girl in the Green Sweater: A Life in Holocaust's Shadow
241371
Harry Louis Bernstein was a British-born American writer whose first published book, The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers, dealt with his abusive, alcoholic father, the anti-Semitism he encountered growing up in a Lancashire mill town (Stockport - now part of Greater Manchester) in northwest England, and the Romeo and Juliet-like romance experienced by his sister and her Christian...more
More about Harry Bernstein...
The Dream: A Memoir The Golden Willow: The Story of a Lifetime of Love La sognatrice bugiarda The Invisible Wall The Brazilian Diamond In Contracts, Contraband, And Capital

Share This Book

“We're not very different from one another, not different at all in fact. We're all just people with the same needs, the same desires, the same feelings. It's a lie about us being different.” 15 likes
“We're not very different from one another, not different at all, in fact. We're all just people with the same needs, the same desires, the same feelings. It's a lie about us being different. It's something they cooked up so we'd be fighting one another instead of them, the ones who keep us down and make their fortunes off our labor, the same ones who send us off to war when they get to fighting among themselves over the spoils. You'll find that out someday. They'll be calling on you to go to war for them, you can be sure of that, because there's going to be lots more wars in the future. I got in one myself, as you know. I saw men getting killed and wounded and crippled, and I must have killed a lot of men myself, and I'm just sick every time I think of it. Why? Because we were fighting one another instead of those who'd sent us out there. Oh, they're clever, those capitalists. It's hard to beat them at their game. They've fooled us with words like patriotism and duty and honor, and they've got us divided up into classes and religions so that each one of us figures he's better than the other. But it'll all change, 'arry. Believe me, it will. People get smarter. The human brain has a potential for development. Someday it will grow big enough so that everybody will see and understand the truth, and then we won't act like a bunch of sheep, and then that wall that separates the two sides of our street will crumble.” 8 likes
More quotes…