Friday Reads: Walls

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“The wall” is a dominant image and concept of the moment. Throughout history, walls have gone up and come down. Many books about walls are often really about building bridges, metaphorically speaking. This weekend, you can bridge a gap in your reading life and consider the following fiction and memoir set in lands near and far for adults and kids, each with a wall as the central construct:


His Dream of the Skyland: The Walled City Trilogy (Book One) by Anne OpotowskyHIS DREAM OF THE SKYLAND: THE WALLED CITY TRILOGY (Book One) by Anne Opotowsky, Aya Morton

A literary graphic novel and saga of ambition, loyalty, and the walls we build both inside and out, animating historical 1920s Hong Kong with powerful modern resonance.


The Wall by H. G. AdlerTHE WALL: A NOVEL by H. G. Adler

The magnum opus of H.G. Adler, a novel of survival and redemption, a “towering meditation on the self and spirit” (Publishers Weekly).

Told in a powerful stream-of-consciousness style reminiscent of our finest modernist writers, The Wall is the story of Arthur Landau, a Holocaust survivor struggling to leave behind the horrors of the past and find a foothold in the present. The “wall” in front of Arthur will not let him entirely remember the past and thus free himself from nightmares, nor entirely let him forget the past and move on. Though he sees himself as akin to “that first Adam,” expelled forever from Paradise, Arthur gradually learns to affirm his life once again through his family and work, a testimony to the human spirit that continues to persevere within him.


The Road Through the Wall by Shirley JacksonTHE ROAD THROUGH THE WALL by Shirley Jackson

The compelling novel that began Shirley Jackson’s legendary career

Pepper Street is a really nice, safe California neighborhood. The houses are tidy and the lawns are neatly mowed. Of course, the country club is close by, and lots of pleasant folks live there. The only problem is they knocked down the wall at the end of the street to make way for a road to a new housing development. Now, that’s not good—it’s just not good at all. Satirically exploring what happens when a smug suburban neighborhood is breached by awful, unavoidable truths, The Road Through the Wall is the tale that launched Shirley Jackson’s heralded career.


The Wall by John HerseyTHE WALL by John Hersey

Riveting and compelling, The Wall tells the inspiring story of forty men and women who escape the dehumanizing horror of the Warsaw ghetto. John Hersey’s novel documents the Warsaw ghetto both as an emblem of Nazi persecution and as a personal confrontation with torture, starvation, humiliation, and cruelty — a gripping and visceral story, impossible to put down.


The Invisible Wall by Harry BernsteinTHE INVISIBLE WALL: A LOVE STORY THAT BROKE BARRIERS by Harry Bernstein

“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, they were miles apart.

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.




The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon AgeeTHE WALL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK by Jon Agee

A foolish knight is certain that his side of the wall is the safe side in this clever, amusingly meta-picture book by the acclaimed creator of It’s Only Stanley

There’s a wall in the middle of the book, and our hero—a young knight—is sure that the wall protects his side of the book from the dangers of the other side—like an angry tiger and giant rhino, and worst of all, an ogre who would gobble him up in a second! But our knight doesn’t seem to notice the crocodile and growing sea of water that are emerging on his side. When he’s almost over his head and calling for help, who will come to his rescue? An individual who isn’t as dangerous as the knight thought—from a side of the book that might just have some positive things to offer after all!


Tillie and the Wall by Leo LionniTILLIE AND THE WALL by Leo Lionni

All her life Tillie the mouse has wondered what lies on the other side of the wall. Imagining all sorts of fantastic possibilities, she digs a tunnel to get to the other side, where she discovers . . . other mice, just like her! Together, Tillie and her friends work to bring down the wall and unite mouse-kind. Written just before the fall of the Berlin wall, this seemingly simple fable has a powerful message for all children—and all people.


The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de AngeliTHE DOOR IN THE WALL by Marguerite de Angeli

Winner of the Newbery Award

Ever since he can remember, Robin, child of Sir John de Bureford, has been told what is expected of him as the son of a nobleman. He must learn the ways of knighthood. But Robin’s destiny is changed suddenly when he falls ill and loses the use of his legs. Fearing a plague, his servants abandon him, and Robin is left alone. A monk named Brother Luke rescues Robin and takes him to the hospice of St. Mark’s, where he is taught woodcarving and patience and strength. Says Brother Luke, “Thou hast only to follow the wall far enough and there will be a door in it.”

“A poignant story, full of action, and a strongly painted canvas of the times as well.” —The New Yorker


For more on these and related titles, visit Walls

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Posted: January 11, 2019