Grace's Reviews > The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers

The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein
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's review
Oct 06, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: memoir, non-fiction, novel-research, read-in-2010

** spoiler alert ** Harry Bernstein's poignant and beautifully written memoir "The Invisible Wall: A Love Story that Broke Barriers" recounts his childhood in England on a street divided by religion - the Christians lived on one side; the Jewish on the other. There was little fraternizing between the two sides, except on Friday evenings when Christians would come into the Jewish families' homes to light the fires on the Sabbath.

Harry Bernstein recounts the fear he felt walking to school because of the taunts and beatings he and his brothers and sisters would receive just for being Jewish in such a way that you can feel the fear too. He writes in such a way that he captures his childhood innocence as he runs the ginger beer bottle between Sarah and Freddy when they were sneaking around, hiding their love because Sarah was Jewish and Freddy was a Christian. He beautifully captures the emotions of the war abroad (World War I) as well as the war inside his own home with his violent and mostly absentee father and the incessant arguments between his mother and two sisters - Rose because she had dreams of being better than her roots and thought her mother was holding her back and Lily because her mother was trying to keep her a part from Arthur, the Christian boy across the street.

This memoir captures a time and essence in history in such a way that I felt like I lived it. I rejoiced when Lily and Arthur returned to the street with their baby, Jimmy, in their arms, uniting the two sides of the street and breaking, forever, that invisible barrier between the Jewish and Christian families. My heart broke when I learned that Lily died five years later, Arthur two years after that, and Jimmy in the next war. It just didn't seem fair, but then again, life isn't fair, is it?

Kudos to you, Harry Bernstein for writing such an elegant memoir and for being brave enough to share it with the world.
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