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The Flight Portfolio

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  4,397 ratings  ·  666 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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Connie Faull No. I'm stubborn and finished it. She had such a great true story to tell and instead we got a boring, plodding novel with too much concentration abou…moreNo. I'm stubborn and finished it. She had such a great true story to tell and instead we got a boring, plodding novel with too much concentration about a homosexual relationship instead of the real story of Varian's heroism in helping over 2000 Jews escape France.(less)

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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  4,397 ratings  ·  666 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
Jennifer Blankfein
May 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing

The Flight Portfolio, an incredible layered, important work of fiction with a touch of humor, is in some ways a Holocaust story, but more than that, it poses the question, is one person’s life more valuable than another. This survival story is about the Jews, the artists and their art, the people of France, and about prospering in your own skin, having a meaningful purpose and living your truth.

Julie Orringer packs a punch with a multileveled, very engaging story. Varian Fry is a concerned Ameri
May 13, 2019 marked it as didn-t-finish
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
(4.5) Orringer’s The Invisible Bridge, my highlight from last summer’s reading, was the saga of a Hungarian Jewish family’s experiences in the Second World War; while The Flight Portfolio again charts the rise of Nazism and a growing awareness of Jewish extermination, it’s a very different though equally affecting narrative. Its protagonist is a historical figure, Varian Fry, a Harvard-educated journalist who founded the Emergency Rescue Committee to help at-risk artists and writers escape to th ...more
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
The GOOD. Orringer highlights the impressive role that Varian Fry played in saving the lives of more than 2,000 refugees fleeing Nazi Germany and the complicit Vichy government during 1940-41. The refugees included such famous personages as Hannah Arendt, Jacques Lifschitz, Golo Mann, Max Ernst, Marc Chagall and countless others. Fry went to Marseille as a volunteer for the Emergency Rescue Committee, which initially received support from Eleanor Roosevelt. The suffocating atmosphere of Marseill ...more
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
Maine Colonial
May 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novel, historical
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.

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
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
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
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars rounded up.

This is an exquisitely written book about Varian Fry and his efforts during the Nazi occupation of France to get Jewish artists safely out of France. Fry was an American journalist, working for the Emergency Rescue Committee, seeking ways to get artists and writers to America, when most legal avenues of immigration were blocked to them. Through cunning, bribery and sheer luck, he obtained visas, passports and travel papers, real and forged, to aid in their escape. Some of t
May 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Although I thought the story interesting, the author's esoteric style is very off-putting. The author's depiction of homosexual behavior was a caricature - very fussy and stereotypically heavy on preoccupation with clothing and appearance.
The tone of the book reminded me of films of that era (1940s) which could have been effective in setting the scene but the stilted dialogue seemed silly and distracting. Better editing to reduce this overly long book by a few hundred pages would have kept me en
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.
Megan L (Iwanttoreadallthebooks)
I don't think a book has ever left me so confused as to how I want to rate it. Which is why I'm not rating it for now and maybe with time, I will be able to figure out what I want to rate the book. After a brief synopsis, I will explain my confusion.

The Flight Portfolio is a historical fiction novel by Julie Orringer based on the life of Varian Fry. In 1940, France is occupied by Germany and the world is enveloped in another war. Varian Fry, an American journalist, travels to Marseille, France w
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
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 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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 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.
Jun 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Dumb book was mostly dumb
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Superb historical litfic, based on an actual young American who worked to help Jewish artists and writers escape from occupied France during World War II and of his life as a gay man. Riveting and well written.
Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
DNF at 40%

I started on audio but it couldn't hold my attention so I switched to print and had the same issue. I've been looking forward to reading about Varian Fry's quest to save lives in France for months but this book has become a love story.
While the love story of Fry and Grant is somewhat engaging, it isn't the story I want or expected.
The daring mission and harrowing decisions to be made have been in the background for almost half the book while Fry and Grant's relationship, past and pres
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Come for the historical fiction about a man who with others saved a couple thousand Jewish and other refugees. Stay for one of the best literary gay love stores I’ve ever read. Incredibly structured, gorgeous sentences, felt like I was in the south of France based on her descriptions. Every character was fully fleshed out. I loved The Invisible Bridge and this one is right up there with it in my all time favorites.
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent example of fiction based on real historical figures. It's the fictionalized story of Varian Fry, who went to Vichy France in 1941 to save the lives of a list of artists, philosophers, politicians, etc., who would otherwise have likely died at the hands of the Nazis. It portrays him as a human being, full of doubts about himself, not completely comfortable about his mission (choosing whom to save based on their status as treasures of European civilization), and, despite lovin ...more
Kathryn Bashaar
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Varian Fry is a privileged young man who takes on a seemingly-impossible job. When the Nazis invade France in 1940, Varian and some of his fellow intellectual and economic elites form the Emergency Rescue Committee. Their mission is to save as many European artists and intellectuals as they can, by getting them out Nazi-occupied Europe. Varian takes on the role of the head man in Europe. He bases himself in Marseille, which is part of Vichy France. For those who don’t know, Vichy France was a no ...more
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: vine, own, fiction
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
Kris Hansen
May 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: signed, abandoned, own-it
I've only gotten to p. 78, but this book is just not compelling. Such an amazing story to draw upon, but the voice that Orringer deploys for Varian Fry is just not engaging. And I like literary novels, so it's not the description or the slow to get going plot, it's just that he is not a character to care about. I want to know more about the people around him, and from reading the reviews on Goodreads, the book is going to be about his inner life and annoying relationship with Grant, who is anoth ...more
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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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