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The Flight Portfolio

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3.71  ·  Rating details ·  2,754 ratings  ·  433 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
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Kindle Edition, 576 pages
Published May 7th 2019 by Knopf
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Lori Anderson I'm almost done. I'm stubborn. But I feel like the book had too many SAT words and way too much foreign language that wasn't translated. I know…moreI'm almost done. I'm stubborn. But I feel like the book had too many SAT words and way too much foreign language that wasn't translated. I know German, Latin, and the bit of Italian they threw in there, but if you don't know those languages, I'd feel a bit miffed.(less)
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3.71  · 
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 ·  2,754 ratings  ·  433 reviews


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Tammy
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
“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
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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
...more
Lisa
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Candace
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Kathleen
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Rebecca
(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
Anne
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
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
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.

Orrin
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Julius Adams
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
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
Megan
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
...more
Sharon
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nicky
May 27, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Allyson
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Kelly
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Thekelburrows
Dumb book was mostly dumb
Hannah
Jun 03, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Liviu
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
Jan
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Tomi
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.
Ruby
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Julie
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Linda Robinson
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read. Lengthy praise to follow.
Sydney Young
I didn’t love this book, though I wanted to. So many questions but mainly a matter of heart. The set up, the lover, he was cold, thus, so was I. And Varian was perhaps too flawed? His actions all Coming from a deep selfishness, even his regret in the end. Despite all his protests, I’m not sure the plight of the people ever truly penetrated though I recognize that was a major theme: who do you save? It was an interesting look at Marseilles and the refugee effort, that while successful one person ...more
Ellen
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kathryn Bashaar
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Vanya
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
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
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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
“Nothing at all to change: what a thing to want in the midst of war.” 1 likes
“puerile passion.” 0 likes
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