Harry Bernstein wrote his memoir, The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers, at the age of ninety-three. To say that it was an amazing accomplishment is to undermine and understate the prose that Bernstein writes. His word-paintings flow in an amazing manner, and his memories are quite viviid, as he takes us back to a small, mill town in Northern England, during the early 1900s. This is not only a memoir, but a taste of history, as well.
We read about life in a particular neighborhood, located on one specific block, with each side of the street having two rows of houses. The difference on this block is that it had an “invisible wall” running down the middle of it, a wall that separated the Jewish families who lived on one side from the Christian families living on the other side.
We are privy to the activities on that block, the associations and lack of associations between the two sides of the street. We are infused with the story of Bernstein’s family, his alcoholic and abusive father, the poverty of the family, and how his mother tries to shield and protect her children from their father.
We see how Bernstein’s sister falls in love with a Christian boy who lives across the street, and how that relationship affects both the families.
This is a touching memoir, often filled with bits of humor, but more often than not, filled with poignancy. The book is a vision of hardship, stories of the working class families who worked in the mills, and a story filled with love, written by a ninety-three year old man, but told, as remembered, through the eyes of a young child.
Bernstein’s child’s voice resounds through the pages, and his descriptions of family life is filled with childlike clarity. His father’s alcoholism had an affect on every family member. With the innocence of a child, we are given facets of familial dynamics between his father and other family members.
Bernstein never gives up, and keeps his positive outlook on life, despite the hardships endured. Harry Berstein’s brilliance illuminates the pages, and I highly recommend this book to everyone.