The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers

( 96 )

Overview

“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 unremarkable. It was identical to countless other streets in countless other working-class neighborhoods of the early 1900s, except for the ...

See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$11.60
BN.com price
(Save 22%)$15.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (153) from $1.99   
  • New (15) from $8.00   
  • Used (138) from $1.99   
Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.99
BN.com price
Marketplace
BN.com

All Available Formats & Editions

Overview

“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 unremarkable. It was identical to countless other streets in countless other working-class neighborhoods of the early 1900s, except for the “invisible wall” that ran down its center, dividing Jewish families on one side from Christian families on the other. Only a few feet of cobblestones separated Jews from Gentiles, but socially, it they were miles apart.

On the eve of World War I, Harry’s family struggles to make ends meet. His father earns little money at the Jewish tailoring shop and brings home even less, preferring to spend his wages drinking and gambling. Harry’s mother, devoted to her children and fiercely resilient, survives on her dreams: new shoes that might secure Harry’s admission to a fancy school; that her daughter might marry the local rabbi; that the entire family might one day be whisked off to the paradise of America.

Then Harry’s older sister, Lily, does the unthinkable: She falls in love with Arthur, a Christian boy from across the street.

When Harry unwittingly discovers their secret affair, he must choose between the morals he’s been taught all his life, his loyalty to his selfless mother, and what he knows to be true in his own heart.

A wonderfully charming memoir written when the author was ninety-three, The Invisible Wall vibrantly brings to life an all-but-forgotten time and place. It is a moving tale of working-class life, and of the boundaries that can be overcome by love.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In this deeply affecting memoir (his first published book), nonagenarian Harry Bernstein evokes with clarity and grace his impoverished childhood in pre-WWI England, a vanished world of grinding hardship and deprivation aggravated even further by ignorance and prejudice. Bernstein zooms in on the small mill town of Stockport, where he and his family lived on the "Jewish side" of the street, divided from their neighbors by an "invisible wall" as effective as any tangible barrier. Yet, in spite of this impenetrable social segregation and against all odds, the author's older sister falls in love with a Christian from across the street, sparking a family crisis as tragic in its own way as Romeo and Juliet. Like Angela's Ashes (another poignant slice of life from a literary late bloomer), Bernstein's gorgeous memoir is an eloquent evocation of a particular time and place.
From the Publisher
“Harry Bernstein returns home and, magically, takes us with him. With its dancing prose and captivating descriptions of neighborhood life, we experience with the child Harry all the wonder, thrill, and heartbreak of being a working-class kid learning to navigate the balkanized world of Christians and Jews within a single English mill town. Bernstein gives us a people’s history, a street-level perspective on a world that might otherwise have been lost, with crucial lessons that will endure throughout time.”
–Michael Patrick MacDonald, author of All Souls

“[An] affecting debut memoir . . . When major world events touch the poverty-stricken block, the individual coming-of-age story is intensified without being trivialized, and the conversational account takes on the heft of a historical novel with stirring success.”
–Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

From the Hardcover edition.

William Grimes
Harry Bernstein grew up in a small world. In the Lancashire mill town of his childhood, during the teens and twenties of the last century, the poor Jews clustered along a single dead-end street, and even that was only half theirs. Christians lived on one side, Jews on the other, separated by a few feet that might as well have been hundreds of miles. The Invisible Wall, Mr. Bernstein’s heart-wrenching memoir, describes two cultures cohabiting uneasily, prey to misunderstandings that distort lives on both sides. It is a world of pain and prejudice, evoked in spare, restrained prose that brilliantly illuminates a time, a place and a family struggling valiantly to beat impossible odds.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Bernstein writes, "There are few rules or unwritten laws that are not broken when circumstances demand, and few distances that are too great to be traveled," about the figurative divide ("geographically... only a few yards, socially... miles and miles") keeping Jews and Christians apart in the poor Lancashire mill town in England where he was raised. In his affecting debut memoir, the nonagenarian gives voice to a childhood version of himself who witnesses his older sister's love for a Christian boy break down the invisible wall that kept Jewish families from Christians across the street. With little self-conscious authorial intervention, young Harry serves as a wide-eyed guide to a world since dismantled-where "snot rags" are handkerchiefs, children enter the workforce at 12 and religion bifurcates everything, including industry. True to a child's experience, it is the details of domestic life that illuminate the tale-the tenderness of a mother's sacrifice, the nearly Dickensian angst of a drunken father, the violence of schoolyard anti-Semitism, the "strange odors" of "forbidden foods" in neighbor's homes. Yet when major world events touch the poverty-stricken block (the Russian revolution claims the rabbi's son, neighbors leave for WWI), the individual coming-of-age is intensified without being trivialized, and the conversational account takes on the heft of a historical novel with stirring success. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

At age 93, first-time author Bernstein has crafted a gripping coming-of-age memoir of his childhood in a poverty-stricken and religiously divided mill town in northern England before and during World War I. Home to both Christian and Jewish families, the street where Bernstein grew up was defined by the strict social and vocational segregation of the two religious groups. Bernstein deftly narrates the tale of his sister's forbidden love for a Christian boy from the other side of the street. From the perspective of his boyhood self, Bernstein offers a glimpse into a family riven by poverty, sibling jealousies, and an abusive, alcoholic father yet held together tenaciously by a caring mother. Bernstein's graceful, unsentimental writing depicts fleeting moments of humanity and gentleness in a brutal world. In the tradition of Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashesor Anzia Yezierska's Bread Givers, this harsh yet inspiring memoir will appeal to readers seeking evidence of the power of the human spirit to overcome prejudice and hardship. Recommended for all public libraries.
—Ingrid Levin

School Library Journal

Adult/High School
When Bernstein, who is in his 90s, was a boy, his older sister, Lily, was in love with Arthur. This would not have been a problem except that Arthur was Christian and Lily was Jewish, and in their pre-Great War mill town in northern England, an invisible wall ran down their street, separating them. Neighbors rarely crossed those few cobblestoned feet. In winter, the Jews built a snow slide on their side and the Christians built one on theirs. There was not much other frivolity in those hard times. Home was not a happy place for Harry, his mother, and his five brothers and sisters when his mean, alcoholic father was there. When 12-year-old Lily won a scholarship to grammar school, her father dragged her by the hair to work with him. Harry's mother started a shop in her front room to make ends meet, selling slightly damaged fruit and providing a place for socializing and gossip. She always hoped for better, having Harry write letters to their relatives in America, beseeching them on a regular basis to send passage for her family, and then, finally, only for Lily when the lovers were discovered. Barriers were finally broken as Lily refused to give up either Arthur or her mother. Readers will be taken with this memoir, reminiscent of Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes (Scribner, 1996). It will grab them from the start, drawing them into an intimate relationship with Harry, Lily, their mother, and the various neighbors who lived on their street.
—Ellen BellCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
A debut by a nonagenarian who recalls a Romeo-and-Juliet story involving his older, Jewish sister and a Christian boy from across the street. Bernstein demands that readers suspend more than disbelief; they must also disengage all skepticism, all critical thinking. His memoir offers no specific dates (we know only that we are in the era of World War I), no documentation, no photocopies, no way for an interested (or dubious) reader to verify any of this story. And what a story. When he is four years old, living in a Lancashire mill town, the author serves as a sort of Huck Finn intermediary, carrying secret love messages between two local lovers (Jewish girl, Christian boy). The author's father is a sort of Pap Finn, too-drunken, sullen, occasionally violent. When his daughter wins a scholarship, he goes off on a rant about education and drags her by the hair to the tailor's shop where she must labor beside him. The author's mother, by contrast, is archetypal-patient, hardworking, loving, forgiving. When he is 11, the author discovers that his sister, Lily, is secretly meeting with her forbidden boyfriend, Arthur-and that they are planning to elope. He goes along with them, then returns later to inform his family. All in the neighborhood-Christians and Jews-are angry. But then Lily has a baby; there is a block party for the new arrival, and the little child unites the residents. Two things that trouble: (1) much of the story is presented in verbatim dialogue, including, when the narrator is ten, a long debate about Socialism at the dinner table; (2) the author is always where he needs to be. A neighborhood suicide? He's there. Key letters from Mom to relatives? He writes as Mom dictates.Seems less a memoir, more an autobiographical novel. Caveat lector.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345496102
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/12/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 53,603
  • Lexile: 950L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.09 (w) x 7.94 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

Ninety-six-year-old Harry Bernstein emigrated to the United States with his family after World War I. He has written all his life but started writing The Invisible Wall only after the death of his wife, Ruby. He has been published in “My Turn” in Newsweek. Bernstein lives in Brick, New Jersey, where he is working on another book.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

It was one of those rare summer evenings when it did not rain, and the smoke cleared from the atmosphere, leaving the sky a deep blue color, and the air soft and fresh and balmy. It was the kind of evening when people brought their stiff-backed wooden kitchen chairs out to the front to sit and smoke, and perhaps listen to the Forshaws’ gramophone. They were the only people on our street who had one, and they left their door open so that everyone could hear. In the meantime, the sun would sink, a huge red ball, behind the square brick tower of the India Mill. After it disappeared, there would be fiery streaks in the sky, and these would fade gradually as the sky became very pale, and twilight would fall gently, and you would see the glow of pipes or cigarettes along both sides of the street.

We had finished our tea, and my two sisters had quickly disappeared before my mother could get them to clear the table and wash up. My two brothers were about to do the same. Having gulped down the last of their tea, and still chewing on their bread and butter, they were halfway out the door to join their friends in the street when my mother stopped them.

“Take ’arry with you,” she said.

They stared at her in astonishment, not believing what they had heard. Well, I too was surprised.

But my surprise was a pleasant one. Until now I had been the baby of the family, too young to go out and play with them, though I’d always wanted to and had watched them go with silent yearning. Now suddenly all this was changed. I looked up at them, my finger in my mouth, waiting, hopefully, for my fate to be decided.

“Him?” said Joe. He was the oldest of the three boys, big for his nine years, and handsome, too. He spoke as if he couldn’t believe what he had heard. “Him?” he repeated.

“He’s only a baby,” screeched Saul in his high-pitched voice. Saul was a bare year and a half older than I, but considered himself my senior by far.

“He’s not a baby anymore,” my mother said, firmly. “He’s old enough now to go out and play with you and the other boys.”

“But he’ll get in the way,” they both wailed. “He doesn’t know how to play.”

“He’ll soon learn,” my mother insisted. “I don’t want him to stay in the house on a nice night like this, and I’ve got a lot of work to do in the house, otherwise I’d take him out myself. Go on now, take him with you, and mind you keep an eye on him and don’t let him wander off by himself.”

They had no choice, and each one of them took a hand savagely, bitterly, and pulled me out with them. But once outside, and once they caught sight of the other Jewish boys from our side a little distance off, they dropped my hands and rushed toward them, forgetting all about me and ignoring my mother’s warning completely. I trotted after them, and that was about all I was able to do throughout the evening. I was not able to participate in any of the games they played. I simply hung on the fringe of the group. I was ecstatic at having that much, though, at simply being allowed to be with them. I shouted when they shouted, jumped up when they jumped, and imitated all their sounds and movements.

I forget the games they played that night, but the locale was constantly shifted from one part of the street to another. We drifted down to the bottom, then back upward. Eventually we landed at the very top, at the corner in front of the Harris’s house, where they began a noisy game of hopscotch.

This one I do recall, and also that it had grown darker. Twilight would linger for a long time yet, until almost midnight, but it had reached the stage where the sides of the street were becoming hidden in shadow, and the glow of pipes and cigarettes stood out strongly. The sky looked almost white in contrast to the earth, and the outlines of roofs and chimneys were etched sharply against it. We could barely see the chalk marks that had been scribbled on the sidewalk, but that made no difference, and the players hopped madly from square to square, shouting to one another.

In that moment of our midsummer night madness, we had failed to see two people seated outside, a little off to the right on the other side of the doorway. These were the Harrises—old Mr. Harris, who could not have been much more than forty, a squat, heavy, bearded man wearing a bowler hat beneath which was a yarmulke, squinting down at a Jewish newspaper in the fading light, and Mrs. Harris, barely forty perhaps, a little woman wearing the orthodox Jewish woman’s wig, beneath which tiny hen’s eyes peered disapprovingly across at the Christian side.

The Harrises were perhaps the most religious couple on our street. He was an important official of the little synagogue over on Chestergate Avenue that we all attended, and the yarmulke he wore beneath the bowler hat was concealed only because such things could draw laughter or jeers from the Christians, especially from the direction in which Mrs. Harris’s eyes were cast. This was the Turnbull sweets shop. Nothing was to be feared from the immobile figure of the man seated there next to the window. Mr. Turnbull had suffered a stroke some time ago, and was brought out here by his wife to sit, usually for hours, and wait until she was good and ready to bring him in. And at the moment she was in the back room drinking beer with her boarders.

The sounds of their raucous laughter and the clinking of glasses drifted out into the street. The boys Mrs. Turnbull took in were a rough lot, and a blot on the street’s reputation. They were young navvies, the ones who cleaned out the middens, or chimneys, who drank and swore, and who, when they were out on the street and in a ripe mood did not hesitate in hurling slurs about the Jews, and at the Harrises in particular if they happened to be sitting out as they were now.

Tonight, fortunately, they were indoors, but the lovely summer evening must have been marred anyway for the Harrises by our noisy presence. However, they said nothing, and tried to ignore us while the game proceeded right next to the window. As usual, I was kept out of the game, and simply added to the din by joining in the shouting and screaming now and then. But after a while I must have grown tired of this—and perhaps it was getting a bit late for me. My attention began to wander away from them, and suddenly it was caught by a movement from the window. The blind was being drawn up, and the white lace curtains were being parted, and a face showed dimly. It was smiling right at me, and a finger was beck- oning.

I didn’t need to be told who it was. It was Sarah, the youngest of the six Harris girls, and a favorite among us and everyone on the street. She was a sweet, gentle, perpetually smiling girl with lovely features, dark hair, an oval face, and a smooth, delicate complexion. She had been ill lately, and was recovering now. She spent much of her time on the red plush couch in the parlor next to the window, reading one of her little yellow-backed novels, and dipping her fingers daintily into the box of chocolates that was always at her side.

Sometimes, during the day, if we happened to be going by, she would open the window to smile and speak to us, to send some boy or girl on an errand for her perhaps, or simply to talk and to pop one of her chocolates into a lucky mouth. I had often been one of those lucky ones. I think I was one of her favorites. I know, when she was younger, perhaps even as little as a year ago, she used to come into our house to play with my sisters, and would always hug me and kiss me and call me her baby. Then she had stopped playing with my sisters, and had put her hair up. On our street this meant that you were grown up and could go to work. She had gone to work for a while in one of the tailoring shops where all the Jews worked, and then had taken ill. Here she was convalescing, and I was staring at her stupidly through the semi-darkness, wondering what all those signals meant. She was also putting a finger to her lips and shaking her head.

Then, at last, I understood. She wanted me to come in to her, but to do so quietly and secretly without anyone seeing me. That’s what it was, and I hesitated. It was much easier said than done. In the first place, her parents sat near the door. In the second place, you did not walk into the Harrises’ parlor that easily.

It was the only real parlor on our street, thanks to the Harris girls and the one boy, Sam, working and bringing in money. It was furnished in red plush, including even the carpet, a truly elegant place, but reserved for members of the family and special occasions. None of us had ever been invited into it. All we knew was what we’d glimpsed through the window and what we’d heard of it being spoken with awe.

There was something else. Sam’s bike stood in the hall, shiny and gleaming, when Sam was not using it. We’d often peeped in at it when the door was open. It was Sam’s great treasure, and he guarded it as fiercely as a lioness guarded her cub. Let one of us so much as dare creep an inch beyond the doorstep toward it, and he’d come roaring out from the back of the house, his bushy red hair standing up like a wild golliwog.

I’d seen it happen two or three times already and I was terrified of going anywhere near it. Yet I’d have to pass it if I went into the parlor. I stood hesitating for a long time, my finger in my mouth, my eyes glued on her face at the window and the beckoning, beseeching fingers, while the others hopped and screeched madly over their game of hopscotch, and the light on the street grew dimmer. Finally I decided to chance it and slipped in.

Mr. Harris was still peering down at his newspaper, closer to the print than ever, and Mrs. Harris was still burrowing with her hen’s eyes through the dusk at the shadowy figure seated across from her, so they did not see me. I saw the bike the moment I entered the hallway, silvery highlights gleaming on the handlebars, the rest scarcely visible in the darkness. I flattened myself against the wall and crept slowly toward the parlor door to avoid touching it, holding my breath as I went. Once, I halted, hearing a sound in the back of the house, a cough, the movement of feet. But after it grew silent again, I crept on.

I groped for the doorknob, found it, and turned it slowly, and went in. The room was dark, save for the patch of light from the window at the front. There was a rustling, and I saw the shadowy figure sitting upright on the couch. “Over here, luv,” she whispered.

I stumbled past bulky furniture and found my way over to her. She grasped both my arms and stared at me for a moment through the darkness. “You’ve grown so,” she said, keeping her voice down to a whisper. “You’re so big. You’re almost too big to kiss. But I will! I will!” And she did, passionately, drawing me close to her so that I caught the familiar scent of lavender that came from the sachet she always wore tucked away in her tiny bosom.

Finally, releasing me, she whispered, “Does your mother know you’re out so late, ’arry?”

“Yis.”

“Would you like to go on an errand for me?”

I nodded.

She gave a glance over my shoulder first, as if to make sure no one was there, then said, “I want you to go to Gordon’s to fetch some ginger beer. Can you do that for me?”

I nodded again, and I might have felt some surprise. It was not an unusual request, and there seemed to be no need for all her whispering and secrecy. I may not have gone to Gordon’s myself before this, but I had gone often with one of my brothers or sisters. Especially when somebody in the family was sick, because it was believed that ginger beer had medicinal qualities.

She did not stop her whispering though, and in fact glanced over my shoulder once more before she resumed. “Take this empty back with you,” she said, thrusting a bottle into my hand. “But first, ’arry”—she brought her mouth so close to my ear as she went on that I could feel the warm breath coming from it—“before you go in the shop, look to make sure Freddy’s there. I don’t want you to give the bottle to anybody except Freddy. Not Florrie, not the old man. Just Freddy. Do you understand?”

“Yis,” I said, speaking this time because the urgency of her tone seemed to demand it.

“And here’s a thrippeny bit.” She put the tiny coin into my other hand. “There’ll be a penny change and you can keep it.”

My heart leaped. A whole penny! I couldn’t wait to be off, but she held on to me a moment longer, and whispered in my ear. “Be very careful, ’arry. Don’t tell anybody where you’re going, and remember what I said, don’t let anybody wait on you, except Freddy. You look through the window first to make sure he’s there, and if he isn’t you just wait until he comes along before you go in. Do you hear me now?”

“Yis.”

Finally I was off, and I made my way out of the room much faster than I’d come in, and my excitement over the penny was so great that I bumped into Sam’s bike, and immediately a great roar came from the back of the house.

“Who’s there?”

I must have flown out of the house. I know I put all caution aside as I dashed out, and the two Harrises, catching a glimpse of me as I went past them, must have been bewildered. They were probably never able to make out what had happened, or where I’d come from, or even who I was.

All they saw was the small figure of a boy dashing across the street, disappearing into the Christian darkness.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Foreword

1. How would you describe The Invisible Wall? A social history exposing religious prejudice? A story of star-crossed lovers? A young boy’s coming of age?

2. Harry’s sister Rose dreams of one day having a parlor and a piano; why does she consider her mother’s faded fruit shop to be a betrayal?

3. If you were in young Harry’s position, would you have kept Lily’s love affair a secret? What was at stake for Harry in maintaining his silence?

4. Despite all that divides them, there is a level of everyday mutual dependence linking the Jews and Christians of Bernstein’s street– gaps in the invisible wall, so to speak. What examples of this mutual dependence can you think of, and do they work to dismantle the wall or to reinforce it?

5. Harry’s mother is a remarkable woman. Her selfless acts sustain the impoverished family, and yet she disowns her daughter for marrying a Christian boy. Discuss this seeming contradiction in her character, and how she ultimately reconciles it within her own heart.

6. In the accompanying interview, Harry Bernstein states that “wars always bring people face-to-face with reality, causing false barriers to disappear.” Do you agree or disagree?

7. By encouraging Lily to improve herself through education, is her mother sowing the seeds that ultimately lead to Lily’s dissatisfaction with the boundaries of Judaism and her involvement with her Christian neighbor, Arthur?

8. Why do you think Lily’s father prevents her from going to the grammar school after she’s won the scholarship?

9. What does America represent tothe Bernstein family?

10. Fatherhood and forgiveness are important themes in Bernstein’s story. Do you think Bernstein has forgiven his father? Do you think his father deserves to be forgiven? On the other hand, what do you think of the rabbi’s son, Max? Does he betray his father and his faith by going to Russia to fight in the revolution?

11. Have you ever experienced living in a divided community, like the street on which Harry lived as a child? Reflect on the religious, class, or racial separations you may encounter in today’s society, both outwardly and self-imposed.

12. Harry Bernstein published his first memoir in his nineties; what are your own dreams, and how does Bernstein’s story inspire you to reach for them?

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. How would you describe The Invisible Wall? A social history exposing religious prejudice? A story of star-crossed lovers? A young boy’s coming of age?

2. Harry’s sister Rose dreams of one day having a parlor and a piano; why does she consider her mother’s faded fruit shop to be a betrayal?

3. If you were in young Harry’s position, would you have kept Lily’s love affair a secret? What was at stake for Harry in maintaining his silence?

4. Despite all that divides them, there is a level of everyday mutual dependence linking the Jews and Christians of Bernstein’s street– gaps in the invisible wall, so to speak. What examples of this mutual dependence can you think of, and do they work to dismantle the wall or to reinforce it?

5. Harry’s mother is a remarkable woman. Her selfless acts sustain the impoverished family, and yet she disowns her daughter for marrying a Christian boy. Discuss this seeming contradiction in her character, and how she ultimately reconciles it within her own heart.

6. In the accompanying interview, Harry Bernstein states that “wars always bring people face-to-face with reality, causing false barriers to disappear.” Do you agree or disagree?

7. By encouraging Lily to improve herself through education, is her mother sowing the seeds that ultimately lead to Lily’s dissatisfaction with the boundaries of Judaism and her involvement with her Christian neighbor, Arthur?

8. Why do you think Lily’s father prevents her from going to the grammar school after she’s won the scholarship?

9. What does America represent to the Bernstein family?

10. Fatherhood and forgiveness are important themes in Bernstein’s story. Do you think Bernstein has forgiven his father? Do you think his father deserves to be forgiven? On the other hand, what do you think of the rabbi’s son, Max? Does he betray his father and his faith by going to Russia to fight in the revolution?

11. Have you ever experienced living in a divided community, like the street on which Harry lived as a child? Reflect on the religious, class, or racial separations you may encounter in today’s society, both outwardly and self-imposed.

12. Harry Bernstein published his first memoir in his nineties; what are your own dreams, and how does Bernstein’s story inspire you to reach for them?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 96 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(51)

4 Star

(30)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(4)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 98 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2008

    The Greatest Book I've Ever Read.

    I've always thought of England as the country that had no fault. The country that could do no wrong or harm. A country were no evil could harvest, much less flourish. Well I was obviously proven wrong. You might be thinking that if I thought this than I am very stupid or naive. I will tell you I am neither. I am simply a American who is not very happy with America to put it in nice terms. This book is simply a heart wrenching tail from the first to the last word. Constantly through this book I had to remind myself that this actually happened to someone, he lived through all of what seemed so unreal. It just shows you how much we take for granted now in this day in time. This book will open your eyes and your heart not only to evil that brews in the world, but the fact that nothing can come between the ones that love. If you have any doubts about reading this book,let them decease because I can assure you that you will not be disappointed.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2008

    Lovely

    This story was beautifully written, interesting, sad, and bitter sweet. Harry Bernstein, the author, seemed like an amazing little boy, totally oblivious to the predjudices he grew up around. Imagine, in the early 1900s, living on a street where there is an 'invisible wall' dividing the Christians and the Jews. There were many colorful characters on that street, and many interesting things that went on. When I saw that Mr. Bernstein had come out with 'part 2', called 'Dreams', I bought it immediately! It's as good as his first book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2008

    A reviewer

    What a deeply moving memoir. This book held me capitavated from the very first page until the end. The writing was so descriptive, I felt I was right there with Harry and his family in the poor Lancashire mill town in England where he was raised until the family moved to Chicago (then New York) in 1922. I eagerly await his next book, 'The Dream.'

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2009

    Though provoking

    An amazing story. The author made me feel as if I were part of his family and living with them. For every page I read I wanted to read more. Looking forward to reading The Dream to find out what happens to the family.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 31, 2008

    WONDERFUL

    beautiful book, the writing defenitely makes you feel apart of the history. I finished it in three days probably sooner if i could but i just loved this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2007

    A beautiful story I shall never forget.

    I had the honor and privilege of meeting Mr. Bernstein at a book signing in Brick, NJ. He is an amazing person and an outstanding author. I couldn't put the book down, and I felt as though I had lived through the past with him. I hope he is going to publish again, I will be there to get his next book. Thank you, Harry for letting me be a part of your family.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2007

    What happened to the rest?

    I loved the book but left me wondering what happened to the rest of the family. His mother and Joe died but when? Did his siblings marry, have children, etc. And when did they pass away. I felt terrible reading about Lily, Arthur and son. How great it was he was able to see and talk to Annie.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2007

    For some writers, life begins at ninety-three.

    It is quite possible that for some writers, their careers begin at the ripe age of ninety-three. Their pace, their slowness and deliberation, and the enormous patience they acquire over nine decades, all serve them well in their new careers. When Harry Bernstein¿s beloved wife, Ruby, died from leukemia after sixty-seven years of marriage, he decided to write his memoir, to help him to combat the loneliness and despair that he felt. This poignant memoir, written by the author when he was 93 years old, is unusual and also extraordinary. The invisible wall, the title of the book, refers to the invisible barrier, erected by the unwritten rules of the pre-World War I English society that kept Jews and Christians apart: Jews in houses on one side of the street, and the Christians in houses on the opposite side of the street. The author was born in 1910, the fifth child of a poor Polish couple who had immigrated to England. The family lived in a small, crowded house, in a small, cobbled, dead-end street, in Stockport, a Lancashire mill town in the industrial north of England. The book covers the brief period of eight years, from 1914 when the author was only four years old, to 1922, shortly after World War I, when the family immigrates again, this time to the United States. The author describes in haunting detail the pain inflicted upon the family by people who were ignorant, poor, and prejudiced against the Jews, and the greater pain the family suffered from dire poverty. His father, an alcoholic and an embittered man, spent at the local pubs most of the money that he earned at a tailor¿s shop. The Christians in the town worked at the local factories and mills, and the Jews worked at tailors¿ shops and pawn stores. Only the sheer determination, hard work, and loving care of his mother, who was illiterate, helped the family to survive the hardship they endured. The author has vivid memories of the painful kicks he suffered while sleeping at the foot of the bed occupied by his two elder brothers. His sister Lily caused a great deal of pain to their family also, by falling in love with a Christian and a schoolmate, Arthur Forshaw, the son of a local shopkeeper. They marry in secret and the author¿s mother sits shiva for Lily, and considers her dead as far as the family was concerned. Although the author has haunting memories of his childhood, and the cruel treatment his family received from his neighbors, he is not bitter. The bias went both ways, he says. And he recalls that when his family walked by a church, the children were instructed to spit as a way to show contempt. Although the book is described as a memoir, it has the feel of a novel. And because the book has a lot of dialogue and discussions from social and political points of view, a reader will feel as if he were reading an autobiographical novel. Instead of calling it a memoir, I wish the author or the publisher 'Random House Publishing Group' designated it as an autobiographical novel and had the publisher done so, it would have been spared, most certainly, harsh reviews from a couple of prominent reviewers 'Kirkus Reviews, to name one'. Written in a prose both clear and lucid, and mellow as bottled fine old wine, this book will charm, captivate and haunt you. You will savor it as an oenophile would a fine bottle of claret, and you will be glad you read it. And I have no doubt that you will remember it for a very long time indeed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2014

    Hnnnh nubnn jy u hn nu nn j unlun um,k nb hnunujjbuh k onjnnh un hj j k n h u uhnuuhn b hhn j huhhnhnn hh hn uj uj. J nunh b bbn nh . jij

    Unuuon njnhbn nn nnnh nb n hnnunnhn h unnhnpnhinuh u h nh
    uh y b uuunm .hm ln nj n. nH nyn yh nn j.u nub hnu n yu bnnh n nh ujln hluuhnjh un klnpn j hu,n un njunnhuj jy uh nhh hu nn
    jnU ubn uhn mh hyyunhjul h uyuh u j u n buhj n nohun hnn nn njuuhn nunbnnj hj j n n jn nu nnuu monbhuub ujnnuh ybhn hhnh , j.n uhlmn hujuj hnh hhbnh mlhnjujhuunjjn j n nu n j hjhh jyuj n nj mk
    Huhnun ujnun jnnon nunh n hu uuhuhu n bnh ju np mlujuu unh, j hhnn pjh upmnj k n nh hkln
    N nnunu j
    Y.unhojnuhji uyh
    nnnu un n n h
    hu ojhn njh n h nunhnhnnjnnn unn nj nnn u
    U nun y u nhnnujhn jnuj nh nhjnnn nhunn n j unynhnu junnhuyh hnnn nln n buuhu hnl. Nuhhun hun
    p un yhnh unhmjhhun m njnunmnjn n lb uNyhu u j m jnuhy nn u nun n hn pnnujhujn nnh
    .hhn n hn nkpi h H uhnj
    uj ujnnh njnupjbj uh nkpn n nyh ub uh nh.hh h nu un huj
    .hn h nnh hj u ,b yhhhhuhb u unnn n jlhouuju h
    huju j nu h nhu u u n nyn ujyl
    . N,l n u i hnplmuh
    h
    Un nh nnuhkhn h n nuujh

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2013

    Great Book! I love books that this going to read The Dream a Mem

    Great Book! I love books that this going to read The Dream a Memoir soon.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 1, 2013

    This novel was nothing short of a wonderful read. Harry Bernstei

    This novel was nothing short of a wonderful read. Harry Bernstein wrote The Invisible Wall at age 96 and was able to recount his life in England as a young boy. Bernstein portrays the cruel reality of an anti-Semitic world, yet he is not bitter about it. Although there are some heart-wrenching scenes where he or his family is mistreated, the book focuses on how they overcame the bigotry of others. The way this time period is portrayed is unlike any other novel that addresses the anti-Semitism during WWI. Although the street is divided into the Jews and the Christians, the intolerance does not seem as intense as other stories. It was very interesting to the the opposite sides of the street interact and help each other despite the division. 

    I think that one of Bernstein's strengths is making his characters come to life. I truly felt as though I traveled back in time and lived with the Bernstein family. I was sad for the children who dealt with an abusive alcoholic father and angry with the Christians who mistreated the Jews. I found myself holding on to the high hopes and dreams of Harry's mother and sister. This memoir is a remarkable story and takes you on a empathetic journey with the characters. I cannot think of a downside to reading this book. I highly recommend The Invisible Wall to anyone who appreciates extraordinary literature.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2013

    I enjoyed this book. Left me wanting like to know more about wha

    I enjoyed this book. Left me wanting like to know more about what happened to the rest of his family, especially Rose. Very sad that his mother led such a rough life.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2013

    Really enjoyed this novel!

    Really enjoyed this novel!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2012

    wonderful read!!!

    Touching story, based on true events. Ten other women from book club loved it too.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2012

    I couldn't put it down. A purchase I don't regret.

    This was an intriguing book & I loved it!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 13, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This is the story of "arry" (Harry) from the ages of 4

    This is the story of "arry" (Harry) from the ages of 4-11. Harry grew up in England on a little street where the Jewish people lived on one side and the Christians on the other and rarely did they communicate. I'd highly recommend the book, I've already requested the sequel from the library as I'm curious as to what happens next with his family. The author wrote this at the age of 96, wow! He really explained everything in a way that drew me in and made me "feel" for the people in his life, he has an enjoyable writing style. Quick read too!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2012

    BEAUTIFUL

    A memoir, a love story, a glimpse into history, a book that was written when the author was 93? I believe...and it was his FIRST book! He went on to write two more! I flew through this book and it moved me to tears. It should really be made into a film, it's that great.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2011

    Kept my interest

    Good story, nicely written. A bit dragged out though.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 28, 2011

    Highly recommended

    Wonderful book/ If you are familiar with England you will not be able to put it down. I felt sorry for the Dad, brute as he was. What a cruel childhood he suffered through. I felt sorry for the Mum, being in such an intolerable situation. The writing is straightforward to where you feel like you are there living all t he troubles. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 2, 2011

    A really great read

    Such a good book! I didnt want it to end. Some of his past is sad, but some parts are laugh out loud funny. A great story teller....you feel like you know all the characters in the neighborhood (and boy, are there some characters). I read the sequal also because I just had to know what happened next. Small book, but a great read.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 98 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)