The Invisible Wall
By~ Harry Bernstein
Quote: "Joe already told me. I'm very grateful to Arthur. I think it was a wonderful thing that he did, and I'm going to make up a basket of fruit for him. But he's a Christian, and I don't want him in the house and I don't want you in his house."~ Mother
Started: August 8, 2017
Finished: August 13, 2017
From the cover:
On the eve of World War I, in a small English mill town, Harry Bernstein's family struggles to make ends meet. Harry's 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 for young Harry, her daughter's marriage to the local rabbi. Then harry's older sister does the unthinkable: She falls in love with a Christian boy. But they are separated by an "invisible wall" that divides Jewish families on one side of the street from Christian families on the other. When Harry unwittingly discovers the 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.
I am always a sucker for a good memoir and this was no disappointment.
I have always been fascinated with other people's stories. Who they are and how they got there.
Harry Bernstein does a wonderful job of showing the reader exactly where he came from and how he struggled, dreamed and thrived in his situation.
I will say I feel like the "love story" aspect of the book was overrated. Yes, it was a huge experience in Harry's life and the book is HIS memoir but in my opinion the "Invisible Wall" was there with or without the Jewish/Christian affair between his sister and Arthur.
The religions were separated already.
He shows that by the way the headmaster, neighbors, and peers treated them.
They were only cordial or interacted on a have to basis already.
As he shows in using them to light the fires or when having to shop at a Christian store.
In some ways they were dependent on the Christians yet the prejudice/dislike was mutual.
Yes, the affair stirred up even more issues and caused more tragedy and heartache.(As it had previously between Sarah and Freddy). I'm sure for them it was just as Harry describes. Horrific for their mother and unsettling for the Christians also.
I just don't feel that was the biggest struggle they were dealing with.
His father was a drunk who wasted what money they did have. He was violent and feared by his entire household. The mother seemed to dream through her children to the point of pushing them away completely. She may have been resilient, but I see a woman desperate and hopeless.
Again, it's just my opinion. I completely admire Mr. Bernstein for his willingness to retell his story to the world and to let us share his memories.
He is a wonderful writer and although he was 96 years old when The Invisible Wall was published, he managed to finish 2 more books The Dream:A Memoir and The Golden Willow before he passed away in 2011 at the age of 101!
I definitely will read his other two books.
And you can also find out more about him and his life here>> Harry Bernstein
I hope anyone who loves a great memoir. A true story or anyone needing to be reminded how prejudices can cause more harm than the good some believe by sticking to what they have been taught. This is a wonderful example of how fear and hatred lead to hurt, harm and even death.
5 Stars for The Invisible Wall