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The Flight Portfolio

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,096 ratings  ·  207 reviews
The long-awaited new work from the best-selling author of The Invisible Bridge takes us back to occupied Europe in this gripping historical novel based on the true story of Varian Fry's extraordinary attempt to save the work, and the lives, of Jewish artists fleeing the Holocaust.

In 1940, Varian Fry—a Harvard-educated American journalist—traveled to Marseille carrying thre
Hardcover, First U.S., 576 pages
Published May 7th 2019 by Knopf
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3.79  · 
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 ·  1,096 ratings  ·  207 reviews

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Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Throughout 1940 American and Harvard grad, Varian Fry, smuggled out of Marseille primarily Jewish avant garde artists. Flight Portfolio is a fictionalized account of Fry’s work with the Emergency Rescue Committee to save some of the most brilliant minds of Europe from the Nazis. Marc Chagall, Andre Breton, Max Ernst, Franz Werfel, Marcel DuChamp, and Hannah Arendt were among those who received aid. This historical novel is not just an exciting narrative of heroism and valor rooted in reality, al ...more
Elyse Walters
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“To be in Marseille, not Paris, still carried a certain novelty, a whiff of the unknown. If Paris reeked of sex, opera, art, and decadent poverty, Marseille reeked of underground crime, opportunism, trafficked cocaine, rowdy tavern song. Paris was a woman, a fallen woman in the arms of her Nazi captors; but Marseille was a man, a schemer in a secondhand coat, ready to sell his soul or whatever else came quickly to hand”.

It doesn’t take long to fall in love with Varian Fry... who was an American
Book of the Month
Why I love it
by Brianna Goodman

Before I tell you why I *loved* this book, let me tell you why I thought I wouldn’t: 1) It’s over 500 pages, which often makes me wish a book had been more harshly edited. 2) It’s about World War II, and, having read more World War II novels than I can count, I’ve grown tired of tropes that often repeat in these stories. 3) I picked it up during a massive reading slump that left me no choice but to binge-watch Game of Thrones. So when I tell you this book reignited
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Flight Portfolio refers to a collection of art that Varian Fry hopes will help the cause of Jewish artists trapped in early 1940s Europe. But most of his attention is not on the art, but on helping the artists escape Nazi capture. This is an ambitious novel that walks the tightrope of telling a historical figure's documented story while also creating his fictional love life.

Mostly, Orringer succeeds brilliantly. The downside is that the momentum builds very slowly. The pace sometimes frustra
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I did not want this book to end.
Don't Google Varian Fry before reading "The Flight Portfolio." Let the novel surprise you.
Varian arrives in Vichy France in 1940, with $3000, a visa for a few weeks, and a list of Jewish artists he was to attempt to rescue. Fry is a Harvard graduate and a journalist of sorts. He's married to a woman who is a power at the powerful Atlantic magazine, and who is behind much of the the funding for this rescue effort. Arriving in Marseilles, he gathers a group of peopl
Kasa Cotugno
Flight Portfolio is an ambitious, well written, lengthy novel using as its framework the life of Varian Fry. However it should be approached as a novel, not a biography, since there is an added key element of Fry's being gay, referenced by professional reviewers, which apparently did not have a basis in fact but is fabricated for plot purposes. It is very effective here since it makes for an exciting, poignant storyline. I admit to not having known about Fry and his organization operating out of ...more
Maine Colonial
May 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: historical, novel
I received a free publisher's advance review copy.

I have always been interested in learning more about Varian Fry and his impressive efforts to get so many artists out of the reach of the Nazis and their minions. Of course I knew that this book is fiction, but I had the preconception that the fiction characterization would be necessary to assign thoughts and feelings to Fry that couldn’t be verified through historical records. It turns out there is a lot more fiction than that in this book.

May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I came across this book at the same time I was reading Mary Gabriel’s newest, Ninth Street Women: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art, an impressive combination of 20th century history and the Manhattan art scene. The influx of Jewish artists fleeing Hitler, many arriving in New York, created a Petrie dish of creativity that developed into the American Abstractionists and the New York School. Flight Portfolio seemed like a perfect companion book, and I was beyond frustrated to ...more
with the caveat that it is truly hard to write a second masterpiece and The Invisible Bridge is such a hard book to equal, I was a bit disappointed in this one; when i opened the novel it immediately made me turn the pages and I was very engrossed in it for maybe a third but then it kind of went downhill as it became repetitive and the emotional interaction between Varian and Grant (not to speak between Grant and Katznelson) didn't really work, nor did after a while the immediacy of the Nazi thr ...more
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What can even I say? It takes years of sifting through average, great, and even excellent books to finally dive into a book like The Flight Portfolio, which I may or may not carry with me at all times for the rest of my life, just so I can clutch it to my chest and burst into tears, as I've been wont to do when it comes to this book.

There are no words to describe Julie Orringer's perfect command of the English language. So I'll leave it at that.

I'm just angry at Goodreads, for not giving us the
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2019
It’s a tricky thing to write about a real life historical figure. Orringer succeeds admirably in telling the story of Varian Fry, who helped as many as 2,000 people escape from occupied France during the early days of WWII. (He was expelled from France in 1941.) The beneficiaries of his efforts include artists and writers such as Marc Chagall and Hannah Arendt. His actions, heroic though they were, raise the question of whether one life is worth saving more than another. Some of the characters a ...more
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer is set in Nazi-occupied France where the hero of the novel, Varian Fry, an American journalist, spearheads rescue operations aimed at the secure removal of crème de la crème of European thinkers & artists to the States. At a time when political intrigue and hostility is peaking, Fry undertakes the mission at the behest of Emergency Rescue Committee whose endeavour is to save the 200 most imperilled. But the looming question (one that intermittently pres ...more
Cherise Wolas
I expected to enjoy this book much more than I did. It was very interesting to learn about Varian Fry, and his mission and that of his American committee to help famous artists, writers, philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, etc. get out of France to keep them out of the hands of the Nazis. And as lovely as the writing is, I found the book dragged and lagged for me in part because of the surfeit of detail. I love detail, but here it seemed that everything, from the smallest to the momentous ...more
I have only read 20% of this novel but must write a small "review" already. I was so excited to learn months ago that Julie Orringer had written a novel, The Flight Portfolio, about the the work of Varian Fry. I started reading it as soon as it was published. To my increasingly great dismay and disbelief I find that Orringer has fabricated a male lover for Varian Fry. Not only that, but his obsession with this man takes up so much space in the book that it diminishes the focus on the real story, ...more
May 03, 2019 marked it as to-read
5* The Invisible Bridge
TR How to Breathe Underwater
TR The Flight Portfolio
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it
I loved Orringer’s Invisible Bridge, but was not as impressed with The Flight Portfolio. I was aware of. Varian Fry and his work in Marseille for the Emergency Rescue Committee to get as many artists and thinkers out of France during WWII. I would have preferred more time spent on the details of those efforts, than his homosexual relationship with a fictional character. The focus on Fry’s efforts and his challenges with the Vichy government provided the reader with the best of Orringer’s writing ...more
Jun 03, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book was just boring even though the topic was interesting. I could not get past the writing style or sympathize with Varian and Grant. The best part was the reference to Alma Mahler, who I was familiar with through reading Ecstasy: A Novel, an actually good historical fiction that I highly recommend to anyone who can or even can't get through this.
Julius Adams
May 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
I will be a naysayer here....I must be getting old because this novel is like so many others that are not doing it for me. The true story is so much better than this! And it is an important story about what was happening then, and also for our times. But this tritely written book is not the answer. Why turn this into fiction, with an understory of gay love that didn't happen and that detracts from the real happenings? And the dialogue is horrendous. Please, do yourself a favor and read the non-f ...more
Barbara Hall
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Based on historical facts during WWII Vichy France, American Varian Fry is charged with undertaking the escapes of prominent artists and intellectuals. Orringer's lucid and well researched writing offers a fascinating read full of mystery, intrigue, harrowing situations and mostly, an intriguing look into the courageous life of Fry, both a hero and a human full of doubt.
Jill Meyer
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The "flight portfolio" in the title of Julie Orringer's new novel, "The Flight Portfolio", is a collection of paintings, drawings, and other artistic endeavors put together by fleeing artists and authors in Marseilles, France in 1940. They had come into what-was-then Vichy, France and were trying to get to Portugal or North Africa. From there they would - hopefully - make their way to freedom in the US, Cuba, Mexico, or, in some cases, Martinique. Most were short of money and hope. Many should h ...more
Mar 21, 2019 added it
DNF...hard to review this one. I won it on Goodreads, and I hate to leave a bad review...but...well-written, very poetic. However, I expected a book about Varian Fry and his work rescuing people from Nazified France. Instead, it mostly seemed to be a homosexual (and somewhat explicit) romance between Fry and one of his college friends. Don't know why that would be important to Fry's story. The book held great promise but took a strange turn. Not my taste.
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
The true story of Varian Fry is certainly one worth telling and Orringer does so in a compelling way. The story symbolises the tokenistic efforts made by a few individuals in the United States to save lives during the Holocaust when overall the US turned a blind eye. The idea that certain worthy artists could be cherry picked to survive so that their talent could be brought to the United States is infuriating when there were so many supposedly ordinary people murdered. However, this is what happ ...more
Karen Raskin
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars, but rounding up because this was a great overall reading experience. I’m glad this novel was based on a real person, Varian Fry, who helped Jewish and other refugees escape Vichy France during WWII. The courage and bravery shown by Fry (and others who worked with and for him) is awe inspiring. I’m also really ok with the fictionalized love story that runs throughout the story and maybe even overpowers it. This is a very long book and there was a period around 400 pages in when I thoug ...more
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, own, vine
Varian Fry is an unsung hero of WWII, having successfully helped approximately 2,000 refugees escape Europe at the outbreak of WWII. The agency he represented largely sought to rescue artists, writers, and intelligentsia from persecution because of their religion (Jews) or political leanings (communists). As Fry became more adept at getting people safely off the continent, the more desperate he was to save as many lives as possible.

Set primarily in Marseille, Fry’s mission encounters a number o
Fran Hawthorne
May 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Varian Fry deserves better than this novel, “The Flight Portfolio.”

During World War II, Fry -- an American journalist and upper-class scion --rescued nearly 2,000 artists, intellectuals and political activists, including Marc Chagall and Hannah Arendt, from Nazi-controlled Europe. And indeed, author Julie Orringer dutifully details nearly every example in her way-too-long second novel.

But, apparently in an attempt to humanize Fry, Orringer has picked up a controversial rumor that he was a close
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There appears to be a flood of new novels about World War II in the offing, many focusing on those who resisted Nazi ideology or military occupation, in one way or another. Julie Orringer's new novel is likely to stand out from the crowd precisely because it doesn't over-emphasize derring-do -- Varian Fry, in her telling, is a reluctant hero as he tries to save Marc Chagall and others from an evil that he and others are only beginning to understand will become known as the Holocaust. Instead, Or ...more
James Beggarly
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful epic about a real life character that I had never heard of before. Varian Fry was sent to France to try and get out as many artists that were enemies of the Nazis, either because of the art they created or because of their Jewish heritage or a combination of both. Not only is that story fascinating and fraught with danger at every turn, but the author adds the return of a past love to Fry’s life, making the story doubly engaging. A very powerful, and personal, look at a time in histo ...more
Joy Pope
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jun 01, 2019 added it
This is a difficult novel for me to rate. I found its 550+ pages highly engaging, although desperately in need of pruning. Orringer's meticulous research, also apparent in "The Invisible Bridge", strongly indicates a dedication to her material. As well, the descriptions of Marseille's landscape, both physical and emotional, were superb. But, at the heart of my concern is the fictionalisation of the heroic Varian Fry, the first American to be recognised as "Righteous Among Nations" because of his ...more
Jun 16, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a well-crafted historical novel by Julie Orringer, the author of "The Invisible Bridge." Reading it took me a while to get into it. From the author's research and reading of autobiographies and memoirs she portrayed real historical events and characters. She also took the liberty of creating an imagined homosexual relationship the protagonist has with a fictional character, and their love story is a substantial part of the story's plot.

Varian Fry was an American Harvard-educated journal
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Julie Orringer is an American author born in Miami, Florida. Her first book, How to Breathe Underwater, was published in September 2003 by Knopf Publishing Group. She is a graduate of Cornell University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her stories have appeared in The Paris Review, McSweeney's, Ploughshares, Zoetrope: All-Story, The Pushcart Prize Ant ...more
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