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The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers
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The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,882 Ratings  ·  1,612 Reviews
There are places that I have never forgotten. A little cobbled street in a smoky mill town in the North of England has haunted me for the greater part of my life. It was inevitable that I should write about it and the people who lived on both sides of its 'Invisible Wall.' "
The narrow street where Harry Bernstein grew up, in a small English mill town, was seemingly unrema
...more
Paperback, 297 pages
Published February 12th 2008 by Ballantine Books (first published 2006)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jill
Aug 29, 2008 Jill rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Nov 22, 2008 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 30, 2012 Jean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jessica
Apr 27, 2016 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, book-club
So heartbreaking and fascinating! Harry Bernstein wrote this book about his childhood at the age of 96, and it's fantastic. He and his Jewish family lived in a small mill town outside of Manchester, England. One side of the street was all Jewish families, the other, Christians, and thus the "invisible wall." The doings of the street, of his family, the poverty they endured, and the tragedies of WWI, are told with grace and clarity. I keep reaching for the book, hours later, because I could have ...more
Chrissie
Aug 19, 2010 Chrissie rated it it was ok
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
Margaret Crampton
This is a brilliant book written when the author was in his nineties and written
As 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 t
...more
Connie
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 social ...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
Apr 12, 2014 Becky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
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
Amy
May 20, 2016 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 po
...more
Margaret
May 23, 2010 Margaret rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Melanie
Jul 13, 2015 Melanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Michelle
Dec 08, 2008 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Melissa
Jun 21, 2011 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-my-bookshelf
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
Jimmy Jones
Mar 01, 2015 Jimmy Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Valerie Campbell Ackroyd
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 b ...more
Nikie Elwood
Feb 16, 2012 Nikie Elwood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 really liked it  ·  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
Aug 25, 2012 Mike Decamp rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan
Jan 30, 2016 Jan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you write a memoir that brings time, place, and culture alive and do so without making me feel guilty for the relatively cushy life I lead, I'm hooked. As any notes about the book will tell you, the Bernsteins and the other Jewish families lived on one side of the street and the Christians lived on the other side in their northern England town. The twain rarely met, but they did share the challenges of their times--war, poverty, lives in industry.

All the while, Harry's mother kept alive the d
...more
Julie Daines
I don't really like memoirs at all, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I believe part of that was because I listened to most of it on Audible and the narrator, John Lee, did a masterful job with the Lancashire accent. While the writing style was not the best, I couldn't help but love the people and their heartaches and triumphs. Such a vivid slice of life for this little street just struggling to survive in the early part of the 20th century in an industrial English town. The conflict between th ...more
Jackie
Jun 26, 2014 Jackie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
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
Mar 23, 2013 Melanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Aug 04, 2009 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 29, 2012 Gretchen rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
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
Laurel
A good friend loaned me this book, which I had never heard of, and told me it was one of her favourites. I can see why. It is written and narrated by 'arry (Harry) Bernstein, a gentleman in his mid nineties, who starts his story when he is pre-school age. This is a remarkable and moving memoir about racial and religious prejudice, abusive husbands, alcoholism, bullying and child labour.These are all dark subjests, but this book is also filled with love, dedication, personal strength and friendsh ...more
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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
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“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.” 22 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.” 10 likes
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