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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

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  10,809 Ratings  ·  1,718 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
Kindle Edition, 324 pages
Published (first published 2006)
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Aug 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Every Living Person (and some dead)
Recommended to Jill by: Sandy

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
Nov 22, 2008 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
Mar 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 30, 2012 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
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
This is one of the best books I have read t
Mar 27, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Jan Rice
Here's the setup: Jews live on one side of the street and Christians on the other, and never the twain shall meet, in a town in England 100 years ago. A memoir, a cross-cultural love story ahead of its time.

The narrator and author is Harry Bernstein, born in 1910 and four year old at the start. His side of the street is populated by families of recent immigrants escaping the pogroms in Eastern Europe. On his side of the street, the fathers toil in tailoring shops. The Christians on the other sid
Monica Mogno
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Appena finito di leggerlo, solo una parola...bello !!
Harry, Lily, Arthur, sono solo alcuni dei nomi dei personaggi di questo libro che ho racchiuso nel mio cuore, per non dimenticare la signora Bernstein, grande donna.
E ancora una volta sono le donne a essere grandi protagoniste, questa mamma, che si
ritrova da sola a dover crescere e mandare avanti un'intera famiglia, ben 6 figli, instancabile, fiera e coraggiosa e salda nei suoi principi.
Siamo agli inizi del 1900 poco prima che scoppi
Darcy Gregg
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Can't say enough about this book, I couldn't wait to read it, then I found it hard to put down and thought about while not reading it and now I'm done can't wait to get my hands on the sequel. Thank you Harry for writing these wonderful stories and making us believe we can accomplish amazing things, even in our 90's! I know these books are based on his childhood which makes them all the more riveting. I'm very glad I've bought my own copy, its a re-read for sure. His mother is amazing and his lo ...more
Feb 26, 2008 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
Analee Harris
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! Although it is a memoir it was an easy read and felt more like a novel which made it even more enjoyable for me. It was educational for me to learn more about the prejudices between Jewish and Christian neighbors through WWI era in England. I also found it humanizing in being able to see that despite cultural/religious difference people are very much the same in their basic desires and needs. It made me contemplate my own actions and thoughts towards others who seem different ...more
Mar 27, 2014 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
Feb 18, 2016 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
May 23, 2010 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
Jul 30, 2013 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
Dec 08, 2008 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
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 01, 2011 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
Jimmy Jones
Mar 01, 2015 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!
Mike Decamp
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 04, 2008 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.
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, 2017
This book reminded me of Angela’s Ashes in so many ways only this time a poor Jewish family in England instead of a poor Catholic family in Ireland. Bernstein writes about his childhood street in a small English mill town- one side Jewish, one side Christian during World War I. Amazingly, he finally wrote his story at ninety-six years old. How he remembered such vivid details is beyond me. (I can hardly remember what I did yesterday). So much of the story is tragic- the cruel alcoholic father, t ...more
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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Invisible Wall comment 4 72 Jan 18, 2014 11:17AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: the invisible wall 1 2 Jun 30, 2012 08:23AM  
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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.” 21 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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