The Flight Portfolio
The long-awaited new work from the best-selling author of The Invisible Bridge takes us back to occupied Europe in this gripping historical novel based on the true story of Varian Fry's extraordinary attempt to save the work, and the lives, of Jewish artists fleeing the Holocaust.In 1940, Varian Fry—a Harvard-educated American journalist—traveled to Marseille carrying three thousand dollars and a list of imperiled artists and writers he hoped to rescue within a few weeks. Instead, he ended up staying in France for thirteen months, working under the veil of a legitimate relief organization to procure false documents, amass emergency funds, and set up an underground railroad that led over the Pyrenees, into Spain, and finally to Lisbon, where the refugees embarked for safer ports. Among his many clients were Hannah Arendt, Franz Werfel, André Breton, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, and Marc Chagall.The Flight Portfolio opens at the Chagalls' ancient stone house in Gordes, France, as the novel's hero desperately tries to persuade them of the barbarism and tragedy descending on Europe. Masterfully crafted, exquisitely written, impossible to put down, this is historical fiction of the very first order, and resounding confirmation of Orringer's gifts as a novelist.

The Flight Portfolio Details

TitleThe Flight Portfolio
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 7th, 2019
PublisherKnopf
ISBN-139780307959409
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, War, World War II, Art

The Flight Portfolio Review

  • Tammy
    January 1, 1970
    Throughout 1940 American and Harvard grad, Varian Fry, smuggled out of Marseille primarily Jewish avant garde artists. Flight Portfolio is a fictionalized account of Fry’s work with the Emergency Rescue Committee to save some of the most brilliant minds of Europe from the Nazis. Marc Chagall, Andre Breton, Max Ernst, Franz Werfel, Marcel DuChamp, and Hannah Arendt were among those who received aid. This historical novel is not just an exciting narrative of heroism and valor rooted in reality, al Throughout 1940 American and Harvard grad, Varian Fry, smuggled out of Marseille primarily Jewish avant garde artists. Flight Portfolio is a fictionalized account of Fry’s work with the Emergency Rescue Committee to save some of the most brilliant minds of Europe from the Nazis. Marc Chagall, Andre Breton, Max Ernst, Franz Werfel, Marcel DuChamp, and Hannah Arendt were among those who received aid. This historical novel is not just an exciting narrative of heroism and valor rooted in reality, although it is that. It also presents questions about the value of life and how to live. In other words, does the ability to wield a paintbrush or pen make that life more valuable than that of another without talent? And, what is required to live one’s life with authenticity rather than to live a lie? In addition to these potent questions there is a love story and it is a love story rather than a romance. The writing is dense, descriptive and elegant. The characters are flawed, fearless and fully human. I can’t begin to believe that I will read another book this year that will even come close to reaching the heights of Flight Portfolio.
    more
  • Elyse Walters
    January 1, 1970
    “To be in Marseille, not Paris, still carried a certain novelty, a whiff of the unknown. If Paris reeked of sex, opera, art, and decadent poverty, Marseille reeked of underground crime, opportunism, trafficked cocaine, rowdy tavern song. Paris was a woman, a fallen woman in the arms of her Nazi captors; but Marseille was a man, a schemer in a secondhand coat, ready to sell his soul or whatever else came quickly to hand”. It doesn’t take long to fall in love with Varian Fry... who was an American “To be in Marseille, not Paris, still carried a certain novelty, a whiff of the unknown. If Paris reeked of sex, opera, art, and decadent poverty, Marseille reeked of underground crime, opportunism, trafficked cocaine, rowdy tavern song. Paris was a woman, a fallen woman in the arms of her Nazi captors; but Marseille was a man, a schemer in a secondhand coat, ready to sell his soul or whatever else came quickly to hand”. It doesn’t take long to fall in love with Varian Fry... who was an American journalist. He ran a rescue network in France helping Jewish refugees - and anti Nazi’s -escape Nazi Germany and the Holocaust...He helped between 2,000 and 4,000 people.Julie Orringer - who wrote “The Invisible Bridge”.... one of my favorite books...has written a gripping historical fiction again. I’ve been waiting - anxiously and excitedly - for years - for Julie’s second novel. Oh- it’s FABULOUS! She educates her readers - while totally transporting us back to a time in history in the most intimate ways.The year was 1940...Varian Fry was staying at Hotel Splendide - Marseille, France. Varian writes a letter to his wife, Eileen, who stayed back in New York. He tells Eileen that he has a few ( ha- we know it’s much more than a few), projects that he can’t abandon. He feels he must stay longer. He shares with Eileen that he has run into an old friend - Elliott Grant - ( it’s been 12 years since he has seen him). Varian went to Harvard with Grant and they worked together at the “Hound and Horn”. He reminds Eileen that Grant was the guy they use to call “Skiff”....the guy she called “a wet blanket”. Varian tells Eileen she was right....With only about 10% into the book - I burst out laughing. As the reader -I was already so involved with the dialogue- feelings and thoughts that Varian had for Grant ( some envious feelings - some distrust- and complex feelings ).Grant had jealousy feelings, too, but hide them. “Jealousy seem parochial, retrograde, shameful”. Varian admits happy to see Grant these 12 years later though (who became a professor of English at Columbia and is now on sabbatical). They will be working together. Many paths they will walk. I melted when Varian included an e.e. Cummings poem to his wife - which he once gave her years before as part of his Valentines card. I loved the poem. One minute - I’m melting over the joy of a touching experience of a man’s love for his wife ....in another moment I’m melting in a different way -incredibly moved/ *thankful* to the great man: **Varian Fry**.... and his bigger- than-life gifts of freedom to others. Varian only had $3,000 and a short list of refugees under imminent threat of arrests by the Gestapo, mostly Jews. Many desperate people - including famous artists and musicians- were begging for help - seeking any means to escape. Varian stepped forward - putting his own life in danger - used his own money - Julie Orringer’s storytelling feels so frightening and suspenseful and ‘real’ at times. Even letter writing home to Eileen as Varian re-located throughout France - was frightening to him, for the fear of censorship. In Lisbon, for example he could be censor-free.... but he also entered Lisbon with clients on an escape. It’s a long book - but so was “The Invisible Bridge”...Once again - Reading Julie’s novel was never a chore...or too long. ... It was a heavenly transporting journey. Her historical fiction books - both - demonstrates the skill of a journalist - with a flair a soulful artist herself. I just can’t say enough about this being the best Historical novel I’ve read in a long time.Julie’s writing is rich, poignant- suspenseful- emotionally felt with indelible characters so vivid and human - that she totally restored my passion for Historical Fiction.Best not to give too many details away - If you loved “The Invisible Bridge”...you’ll love this novel too.Many thanks to Knopf Random House, and to Julie Orringer for her brilliant achievement by her warmth and exquisite prose. P.S. and who knew that a silver nautilus shirt cuff would be a symbol of love and legacy. Book to be released in April 2019
    more
  • Book of the Month
    January 1, 1970
    Why I love itby Brianna GoodmanBefore I tell you why I *loved* this book, let me tell you why I thought I wouldn’t: 1) It’s over 500 pages, which often makes me wish a book had been more harshly edited. 2) It’s about World War II, and, having read more World War II novels than I can count, I’ve grown tired of tropes that often repeat in these stories. 3) I picked it up during a massive reading slump that left me no choice but to binge-watch Game of Thrones. So when I tell you this book reignited Why I love itby Brianna GoodmanBefore I tell you why I *loved* this book, let me tell you why I thought I wouldn’t: 1) It’s over 500 pages, which often makes me wish a book had been more harshly edited. 2) It’s about World War II, and, having read more World War II novels than I can count, I’ve grown tired of tropes that often repeat in these stories. 3) I picked it up during a massive reading slump that left me no choice but to binge-watch Game of Thrones. So when I tell you this book reignited my reading life and restored my fried brain, it’s not hyperbole. This book is just that good.The Flight Portfolio is a fictionalized account of the life of Varian Fry, an American who saves renowned Jewish artists from the Holocaust by smuggling them out of occupied France. From securing false passports, to bribing police officers, to hustling refugees across the border, Varian and his team risk their own lives daily to save the lives—and works—of now-legendary figures. But when a former flame seeks Varian out to save the life of a boy he knows, Varian finds himself torn between duty and love for the man he never thought he’d see again.The topics in this book are massive—forbidden love, prejudice, the price of a life—but Varian’s story never feels overbearing; instead, it just feels real. Like 2017 Book of the Year winner The Heart’s Invisible Furies, this novel follows closely the life of a likable man struggling with his identity in an unforgiving world. There are moments of lightness (a Surrealist party conducted in the nude, for starters), and of course, the inevitable darkness. If you too need to be zapped back to life by a really good book, then this big ass, big-hearted novel is for you.Read more at: https://bookofthemonth.com/the-flight...
    more
  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    The Flight Portfolio refers to a collection of art that Varian Fry hopes will help the cause of Jewish artists trapped in early 1940s Europe. But most of his attention is not on the art, but on helping the artists escape Nazi capture. This is an ambitious novel that walks the tightrope of telling a historical figure's documented story while also creating his fictional love life.Mostly, Orringer succeeds brilliantly. The downside is that the momentum builds very slowly. The pace sometimes frustra The Flight Portfolio refers to a collection of art that Varian Fry hopes will help the cause of Jewish artists trapped in early 1940s Europe. But most of his attention is not on the art, but on helping the artists escape Nazi capture. This is an ambitious novel that walks the tightrope of telling a historical figure's documented story while also creating his fictional love life.Mostly, Orringer succeeds brilliantly. The downside is that the momentum builds very slowly. The pace sometimes frustrated me - for the first 300 or so pages, I was always aware of what page I was on. But my patience was rewarded. This is an excellent, thought provoking novel - given a choice - who do you save? And personally, both for Varian and his lover, what are the costs of "passing?"
    more
  • Candace
    January 1, 1970
    I did not want this book to end.Don't Google Varian Fry before reading "The Flight Portfolio." Let the novel surprise you.Varian arrives in Vichy France in 1940, with $3000, a visa for a few weeks, and a list of Jewish artists he was to attempt to rescue. Fry is a Harvard graduate and a journalist of sorts. He's married to a woman who is a power at the powerful Atlantic magazine, and who is behind much of the the funding for this rescue effort. Arriving in Marseilles, he gathers a group of peopl I did not want this book to end.Don't Google Varian Fry before reading "The Flight Portfolio." Let the novel surprise you.Varian arrives in Vichy France in 1940, with $3000, a visa for a few weeks, and a list of Jewish artists he was to attempt to rescue. Fry is a Harvard graduate and a journalist of sorts. He's married to a woman who is a power at the powerful Atlantic magazine, and who is behind much of the the funding for this rescue effort. Arriving in Marseilles, he gathers a group of people around him who bring out his audacious side. Varian finds that he is fearless in getting these people--many of whom are very reluctant to leave- across the border to Spain and off Vichy and the Nazi's radar. His time stretches on, partially because of his heady success and partially because he has reconnected with the man who may be the love of his life.Julie' Orringer's third novel is masterful. Every page is full, as good as it can be, and riveting. I loved it, and any fan of quality fiction will, too.
    more
  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    Flight Portfolio is an ambitious, well written, lengthy novel using as its framework the life of Varian Fry. However it should be approached as a novel, not a biography, since there is an added key element of Fry's being gay, referenced by professional reviewers, which apparently did not have a basis in fact but is fabricated for plot purposes. It is very effective here since it makes for an exciting, poignant storyline. I admit to not having known about Fry and his organization operating out of Flight Portfolio is an ambitious, well written, lengthy novel using as its framework the life of Varian Fry. However it should be approached as a novel, not a biography, since there is an added key element of Fry's being gay, referenced by professional reviewers, which apparently did not have a basis in fact but is fabricated for plot purposes. It is very effective here since it makes for an exciting, poignant storyline. I admit to not having known about Fry and his organization operating out of Marsailles which facilitated sending some 2,000 artists, thinkers and people deemed important to mankind as a whole to safety in the face of Nazi occupation and the Vichy government. Ms. Orringer writes with a sure hand, her characters breathe as does the city of Marseilles in all its blowsy glory.
    more
  • Maine Colonial
    January 1, 1970
    I received a free publisher's advance review copy.I have always been interested in learning more about Varian Fry and his impressive efforts to get so many artists out of the reach of the Nazis and their minions. Of course I knew that this book is fiction, but I had the preconception that the fiction characterization would be necessary to assign thoughts and feelings to Fry that couldn’t be verified through historical records. It turns out there is a lot more fiction than that in this book.Orrin I received a free publisher's advance review copy.I have always been interested in learning more about Varian Fry and his impressive efforts to get so many artists out of the reach of the Nazis and their minions. Of course I knew that this book is fiction, but I had the preconception that the fiction characterization would be necessary to assign thoughts and feelings to Fry that couldn’t be verified through historical records. It turns out there is a lot more fiction than that in this book.Orringer has done a great deal of research and gives us the details of Fry’s work, which is challenging, frustrating, dangerous and inspiring. She also gives us insight into Fry’s humanity and the doubts he sometimes has about many aspects of his mission and about himself. She’s an elegant writer and her descriptions of France, especially Marseilles, are beautiful and evocative. These things are obviously all to the good.Historical fiction is a risky proposition. The writer is expected to be true to the history, but place fictional characters in among the real characters of the time and place, and use those fictional characters to personalize history for the reader. Orringer has instead fictionalized a real person. That’s alright in principle, but I’m not at all comfortable with where she takes that in this book. There are some who suggest that Fry had a same-sex relationship in college and may have continued to have homosexual encounters as an adult, though married with children. Orringer jumps into this notion with both feet, inventing a character named Grant, who comes back into Fry’s life in France and rekindles a relationship that leads to a thriller-ish plot. This whole fictional plot comes to nearly dominate the book, and that goes too far for me. It’s an exciting story, sure, but it’s not Fry’s story.
    more
  • Sharon
    January 1, 1970
    I came across this book at the same time I was reading Mary Gabriel’s newest, Ninth Street Women: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art, an impressive combination of 20th century history and the Manhattan art scene. The influx of Jewish artists fleeing Hitler, many arriving in New York, created a Petrie dish of creativity that developed into the American Abstractionists and the New York School. Flight Portfolio seemed like a perfect companion book, and I was beyond frustrated to I came across this book at the same time I was reading Mary Gabriel’s newest, Ninth Street Women: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art, an impressive combination of 20th century history and the Manhattan art scene. The influx of Jewish artists fleeing Hitler, many arriving in New York, created a Petrie dish of creativity that developed into the American Abstractionists and the New York School. Flight Portfolio seemed like a perfect companion book, and I was beyond frustrated to discover that the first quarter of the book is given over to Fry’s gay love affair. Later I appreciated the level of complexity that it contributed but as they say, less is more.Fry’s mandate was to help extricate 200 known artists from Vichy France and into safe keeping. But as Fry soon discovered, the US didn’t want the refugees he was sending. He agonized and “wasn’t going to sit by and watch the European cultural pantheon burn. Benjamin was dead. Others would follow.” The consulate was less than helpful and ultimately obstructive, so much of the financial support for their work came from private donations.He became so frantic to save these brilliant artists that he began to prioritize who should get out first. The author raises the question of what makes one life more valuable than another one when Fry is repeatedly reminded that life is life, how could he weigh one against another. In fact, the captain of the black market ship he used to smuggle out refugees lectured him: “Here was Marseille’s chief gangster, trader in human capital, disposer of bodies in the Vieux Port, moralizing to him about the absolute value of human life. ‘Thanks Charles, he said, I believe I’ll take myself home now and meditate on that.” He didn’t. Even Hannah Arendt called him up on it when he told her that he was told to pull out all stops for her. She replied, “Don’t you pull them out for everyone, Herr Fry?” As the Vichy noose tightened, his desperation to save these artist treasures intensified to the point that he was blinded to the desperate measures a father would go to to save his son. If you find the beginning difficult, hang in there because you’ll soon be flipping pages, especially near the end.
    more
  • Liviu
    January 1, 1970
    with the caveat that it is truly hard to write a second masterpiece and The Invisible Bridge is such a hard book to equal, I was a bit disappointed in this one; when i opened the novel it immediately made me turn the pages and I was very engrossed in it for maybe a third but then it kind of went downhill as it became repetitive and the emotional interaction between Varian and Grant (not to speak between Grant and Katznelson) didn't really work, nor did after a while the immediacy of the Nazi thr with the caveat that it is truly hard to write a second masterpiece and The Invisible Bridge is such a hard book to equal, I was a bit disappointed in this one; when i opened the novel it immediately made me turn the pages and I was very engrossed in it for maybe a third but then it kind of went downhill as it became repetitive and the emotional interaction between Varian and Grant (not to speak between Grant and Katznelson) didn't really work, nor did after a while the immediacy of the Nazi threat as things seemed to work Casablanca style, the French police turned a blind eye if enough was paid and if things became too visible" more bribes would still do etc; the cruelty of US immigration policy and of various officials contrasted well with the efforts of Varian and of the vice consul who helped him till the bitter end and many of the secondary characters (from the famous like the Manns, Chagall etc to the helpers of Varian and even to the crooks of Marseille) were very well drawn and stood out, but overall after a superb third or so, I felt the novel really lost its focus and just meandered until it was hard to care anymore
    more
  • Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    It’s a tricky thing to write about a real life historical figure. Orringer succeeds admirably in telling the story of Varian Fry, who helped as many as 2,000 people escape from occupied France during the early days of WWII. (He was expelled from France in 1941.) The beneficiaries of his efforts include artists and writers such as Marc Chagall and Hannah Arendt. His actions, heroic though they were, raise the question of whether one life is worth saving more than another. Some of the characters a It’s a tricky thing to write about a real life historical figure. Orringer succeeds admirably in telling the story of Varian Fry, who helped as many as 2,000 people escape from occupied France during the early days of WWII. (He was expelled from France in 1941.) The beneficiaries of his efforts include artists and writers such as Marc Chagall and Hannah Arendt. His actions, heroic though they were, raise the question of whether one life is worth saving more than another. Some of the characters and relationships are fictional, but it all comes together well. Orringer explores Fry’s suspected homosexuality in a time when no one could be open about that. There is much for book clubs to discuss in this terrific follow up to The Invisible Bridge.
    more
  • Julie
    January 1, 1970
    Varian Fry is an unsung hero of WWII, having successfully helped approximately 2,000 refugees escape Europe at the outbreak of WWII. The agency he represented largely sought to rescue artists, writers, and intelligentsia from persecution because of their religion (Jews) or political leanings (communists). As Fry became more adept at getting people safely off the continent, the more desperate he was to save as many lives as possible. Set primarily in Marseille, Fry’s mission encounters a number o Varian Fry is an unsung hero of WWII, having successfully helped approximately 2,000 refugees escape Europe at the outbreak of WWII. The agency he represented largely sought to rescue artists, writers, and intelligentsia from persecution because of their religion (Jews) or political leanings (communists). As Fry became more adept at getting people safely off the continent, the more desperate he was to save as many lives as possible. Set primarily in Marseille, Fry’s mission encounters a number of difficulties: corrupt bureaucracies, the Vichy government, unobtainable visas, and of course the constantly looming threat of the Gestapo. When his old Harvard chum, Elliott Grant suddenly reappears in Marseille after a 12 year absence, Fry’s already chaotic world is rocked. Grant asks him to help save the son of his “companion,” a young man in limbo somewhere in Europe who is sought by the Nazis for his unique brilliance. The complex relationship between Fry and Grant becomes as important to Varian as rescuing his artists. “He understood… how far he was from having any iota of control over his feelings for Grant…”Yes, this is a love story, but set in the midst of war, it is a dangerous thing, not only because of the nature of Grant and Fry’s relationship, but due to Fry’s hazardous (sometimes illegal) work and Grant’s heredity. “Because, necessarily, the actual experience of tasting, of touching, of entering, was laced with grief. Once it began, it was on its way to being over.” As Grant and Fry grow closer both through their rescue work and through their love, they begin to understand that not everything can be laid bare. “…Elliot Grant, that particular collection of cells, of inanimate elements made animate by some force that claimed kinship with Varian…” is a superb definition of their une history d’amour.Orringer’s superb writing only enhances the incredible story she presents. “They couldn’t stop the Nazi machinery from advancing across the European continent; they couldn’t hope to see Hitler stripped of power… But here or there, a life could be saved; and the lives they were saving might save others. Small effects multiplied. That’s what kept them at the work.” Varian Fry’s heroic efforts on behalf of his clients infuriated the authorities, yet he persisted in his defiance: “…it was strangely gratifying to know how objectionable he had become.” There’s a lot of name dropping (the Chagalls, the Manns, Mehring, etc) and a huge cast of characters, which occasionally became cumbersome. But there are some fantastic aspects as well, like larger than life American heiress Mary Jayne Gold, and an unforgettable nude dinner party with a bunch of surrealists. I enjoyed getting to know Varian Fry, his contribution to saving lives and art, and how Orringer developed his character based on historical suppositions. Overall, this is an intelligent, complex, masterfully written novel that will appeal to fans of historical fiction sagas. I received a complimentary copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program.
    more
  • Vanya
    January 1, 1970
    The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer is set in Nazi-occupied France where the hero of the novel, Varian Fry, an American journalist, spearheads rescue operations aimed at the secure removal of crème de la crème of European thinkers & artists to the States. At a time when political intrigue and hostility is peaking, Fry undertakes the mission at the behest of Emergency Rescue Committee whose endeavour is to save the 200 most imperilled. But the looming question (one that intermittently pres The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer is set in Nazi-occupied France where the hero of the novel, Varian Fry, an American journalist, spearheads rescue operations aimed at the secure removal of crème de la crème of European thinkers & artists to the States. At a time when political intrigue and hostility is peaking, Fry undertakes the mission at the behest of Emergency Rescue Committee whose endeavour is to save the 200 most imperilled. But the looming question (one that intermittently presents itself in the form of a piercing conscience to Fry) is which life deserves to be saved and how does one put a value tag on someone’s life.Fry is supported in this grand undertaking by a competent group of people who boast of different strengths and are united by their will to prevail. Perhaps his most indispensable ally is Henry Bingham who supplies documents and visas, mostly fraudulent, to guarantee a safe passage through the various travel routes that Fry’s clients employ. But at the heart of the novel with a cause so Herculean is something very personal and raw. Orringer renders the novel marvellously intimate by laying bare Fry’s mind which experiences a jolt when a chance encounter leads him to his sweetheart from college days, Elliot Grant. Painfully hiding behind the mask of normalcy is Fry’s deviance, one that he has tried to suppress for more than half of his life by diving deep in the heterosexual world of marriage and domesticity. The turmoil outside is mirrored in Fry’s unbecoming and refashioning as his time in France quickly transforms into a time-space hollowed out from the real world, which seems to have receded to the background somewhere. Amidst the tricks of the heart and adventures of the mind is Grant’s bid to save the prodigious young son of his present lover who is being hunted by the Nazi intelligence. He solicits Fry’s help and what follows is a quest that exceeds beyond the physical, leading to an unraveling that neither Grant nor Fry are prepared for.The book draws a portrait of Marseille that comes alive in all its splendour, a Marseille that breathes, swallows, sniffs and often groans under the weight of the biggest tragedy unleashed by the human race on its own kind. The forgotten American hero is depicted with great elegance and empathy that had perhaps not been conferred upon him in his lifetime despite the import of his altruistic work at a time when it was most needed and least conducive.
    more
  • Anne
    January 1, 1970
    I have only read 20% of this novel but must write a small "review" already. I was so excited to learn months ago that Julie Orringer had written a novel, The Flight Portfolio, about the the work of Varian Fry. I started reading it as soon as it was published. To my increasingly great dismay and disbelief I find that Orringer has fabricated a male lover for Varian Fry. Not only that, but his obsession with this man takes up so much space in the book that it diminishes the focus on the real story, I have only read 20% of this novel but must write a small "review" already. I was so excited to learn months ago that Julie Orringer had written a novel, The Flight Portfolio, about the the work of Varian Fry. I started reading it as soon as it was published. To my increasingly great dismay and disbelief I find that Orringer has fabricated a male lover for Varian Fry. Not only that, but his obsession with this man takes up so much space in the book that it diminishes the focus on the real story, saving refugees, which Fry does while risking his own life on a daily basis. This story is thrilling enough all by itself without the added sexual relationship. For me, it diminishes rather than maintains my interest and focus. Perhaps if I hadn't already read 2 biographies about Fry I would feel differently. These include A Quiet American: The Secret War of Varian Fry and A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry. I asked myself why a male lover was never mentioned in these biographies? Perhaps, I thought, Orringer's research found something these biographers didn't or didn't chose to include. But then I found a New York Times review of this book which stated: "Even the glamour of the homoerotic, which fuels Orringer’s engine of suspense, turns threadbare through overexposure. In scene after scene, Varian’s leg slides seductively .... along Grant’s; or vice versa. For the historical Fry, beyond hunches and hints, there is no evidence of homosexuality. Yet Orringer makes it a part of his character..." I couldn't agree more with this quote but will attempt to persevere with this mashup of a novel for now.
    more
  • Cherise Wolas
    January 1, 1970
    I expected to enjoy this book much more than I did. It was very interesting to learn about Varian Fry, and his mission and that of his American committee to help famous artists, writers, philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, etc. get out of France to keep them out of the hands of the Nazis. And as lovely as the writing is, I found the book dragged and lagged for me in part because of the surfeit of detail. I love detail, but here it seemed that everything, from the smallest to the momentous I expected to enjoy this book much more than I did. It was very interesting to learn about Varian Fry, and his mission and that of his American committee to help famous artists, writers, philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, etc. get out of France to keep them out of the hands of the Nazis. And as lovely as the writing is, I found the book dragged and lagged for me in part because of the surfeit of detail. I love detail, but here it seemed that everything, from the smallest to the momentous was equally important and had to be highlighted for the reader to perhaps prove the bona fides of the impressive research performed. There are a host of intriguing characters, and while it's an interesting authorial choice to create a fictional character in a novel about a real person, I had a hard time caring about the long history and new nature of the love relationship between Varian Fry and Elliot Grant. I usually have no trouble suspending my disbelief, but in the midst of all Fry was trying to do, would his absorption with Grant have had the same weight as his humanitarian efforts?
    more
  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    5* The Invisible BridgeTR How to Breathe Underwater TR The Flight Portfoliohttps://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/02/bo...
  • Allyson
    January 1, 1970
    What can even I say? It takes years of sifting through average, great, and even excellent books to finally dive into a book like The Flight Portfolio, which I may or may not carry with me at all times for the rest of my life, just so I can clutch it to my chest and burst into tears, as I've been wont to do when it comes to this book.There are no words to describe Julie Orringer's perfect command of the English language. So I'll leave it at that.I'm just angry at Goodreads, for not giving us the What can even I say? It takes years of sifting through average, great, and even excellent books to finally dive into a book like The Flight Portfolio, which I may or may not carry with me at all times for the rest of my life, just so I can clutch it to my chest and burst into tears, as I've been wont to do when it comes to this book.There are no words to describe Julie Orringer's perfect command of the English language. So I'll leave it at that.I'm just angry at Goodreads, for not giving us the luxury of half-star ratings, if only because now I feel like I need to adjust every single book I've ever read so that this one can occupy one of the few 5-star slots.Anyway. I love this book so much I can barely breathe.
    more
  • Ellen
    January 1, 1970
    I loved Orringer’s Invisible Bridge, but was not as impressed with The Flight Portfolio. I was aware of. Varian Fry and his work in Marseille for the Emergency Rescue Committee to get as many artists and thinkers out of France during WWII. I would have preferred more time spent on the details of those efforts, than his homosexual relationship with a fictional character. The focus on Fry’s efforts and his challenges with the Vichy government provided the reader with the best of Orringer’s writing I loved Orringer’s Invisible Bridge, but was not as impressed with The Flight Portfolio. I was aware of. Varian Fry and his work in Marseille for the Emergency Rescue Committee to get as many artists and thinkers out of France during WWII. I would have preferred more time spent on the details of those efforts, than his homosexual relationship with a fictional character. The focus on Fry’s efforts and his challenges with the Vichy government provided the reader with the best of Orringer’s writing style, well researched and well written.
    more
  • Julius Adams
    January 1, 1970
    I will be a naysayer here....I must be getting old because this novel is like so many others that are not doing it for me. The true story is so much better than this! And it is an important story about what was happening then, and also for our times. But this tritely written book is not the answer. Why turn this into fiction, with an understory of gay love that didn't happen and that detracts from the real happenings? And the dialogue is horrendous. Please, do yourself a favor and read the non-f I will be a naysayer here....I must be getting old because this novel is like so many others that are not doing it for me. The true story is so much better than this! And it is an important story about what was happening then, and also for our times. But this tritely written book is not the answer. Why turn this into fiction, with an understory of gay love that didn't happen and that detracts from the real happenings? And the dialogue is horrendous. Please, do yourself a favor and read the non-fiction versions of these events. They are just so much better and these true stories deserve better.
    more
  • Barbara Hall
    January 1, 1970
    Based on historical facts during WWII Vichy France, American Varian Fry is charged with undertaking the escapes of prominent artists and intellectuals. Orringer's lucid and well researched writing offers a fascinating read full of mystery, intrigue, harrowing situations and mostly, an intriguing look into the courageous life of Fry, both a hero and a human full of doubt.
    more
  • Jill Meyer
    January 1, 1970
    The "flight portfolio" in the title of Julie Orringer's new novel, "The Flight Portfolio", is a collection of paintings, drawings, and other artistic endeavors put together by fleeing artists and authors in Marseilles, France in 1940. They had come into what-was-then Vichy, France and were trying to get to Portugal or North Africa. From there they would - hopefully - make their way to freedom in the US, Cuba, Mexico, or, in some cases, Martinique. Most were short of money and hope. Many should h The "flight portfolio" in the title of Julie Orringer's new novel, "The Flight Portfolio", is a collection of paintings, drawings, and other artistic endeavors put together by fleeing artists and authors in Marseilles, France in 1940. They had come into what-was-then Vichy, France and were trying to get to Portugal or North Africa. From there they would - hopefully - make their way to freedom in the US, Cuba, Mexico, or, in some cases, Martinique. Most were short of money and hope. Many should have left Europe earlier when the going was somewhat better, but now, as the German noose descended over France, they wanted to leave now. A group was set up - staffed by mostly non-Jewish Americans - who were pulling strings, paying ransoms, bribing officials, and making up counterfeit documents. The group was called the "Emergency Rescue Committee" and one of their most important jobs was deciding who, among the refugees in Marseilles, was worthy of sponsorship and saving by the Committee. Here's where the "flight portfolio" came into existence as artists, many not known in the US, proved their artistic bona fides.The novel is a double story. The first is the story of the rescues of so many people - including Marc Chagall and Max Ernst - and the way the ERC operated in and around Marseilles. Included in that story is how the Committee was able to smuggle people in - and out - of France, headed to safer places from which to get a boat or a plane to the US. As Orringer uses real people as both rescuers and the rescued - its easy to look up these people in Wikipedia. (I'd really advise having access to Wiki as you read the book.). The second story is the love affair between the married Varian Fry - the real journalist who was put in charge of the ERC - and his old college lover, Elliott Grant. Grant is a fictional character but Orringer bases him on Fry's real lover - Lincoln Kirstein. (Fry must have been bi-sexual, because he fathered two children with his second wife.)Julie Orringer's writing is almost perfect as she juggles the comings-and-goings and the personal stories of the main characters. She showed her chops in her first book, "The Invisible Bridge", set in Hungary. Orringer's book is one of those strange mixtures of history and fiction that often don't turn out well, but in Orringer's case, she manages to pull off the combination quite well. The book could have been a hundred or so pages shorter, but I'm not deducting a star for that. It's a winner.
    more
  • Tomi
    January 1, 1970
    DNF...hard to review this one. I won it on Goodreads, and I hate to leave a bad review...but...well-written, very poetic. However, I expected a book about Varian Fry and his work rescuing people from Nazified France. Instead, it mostly seemed to be a homosexual (and somewhat explicit) romance between Fry and one of his college friends. Don't know why that would be important to Fry's story. The book held great promise but took a strange turn. Not my taste.
    more
  • Yonit
    January 1, 1970
    The true story of Varian Fry is certainly one worth telling and Orringer does so in a compelling way. The story symbolises the tokenistic efforts made by a few individuals in the United States to save lives during the Holocaust when overall the US turned a blind eye. The idea that certain worthy artists could be cherry picked to survive so that their talent could be brought to the United States is infuriating when there were so many supposedly ordinary people murdered. However, this is what happ The true story of Varian Fry is certainly one worth telling and Orringer does so in a compelling way. The story symbolises the tokenistic efforts made by a few individuals in the United States to save lives during the Holocaust when overall the US turned a blind eye. The idea that certain worthy artists could be cherry picked to survive so that their talent could be brought to the United States is infuriating when there were so many supposedly ordinary people murdered. However, this is what happened and one can argue that some of our civilization was retained by salvaging a few individuals. Orringer was criticized, notably by Cynthia Ozick in the NY Times for choosing to portray Fry as a homosexual but this has been confirmed by his own son so we can assume it is factual.  Very well researched. 4.5
    more
  • Karen Raskin
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars, but rounding up because this was a great overall reading experience. I’m glad this novel was based on a real person, Varian Fry, who helped Jewish and other refugees escape Vichy France during WWII. The courage and bravery shown by Fry (and others who worked with and for him) is awe inspiring. I’m also really ok with the fictionalized love story that runs throughout the story and maybe even overpowers it. This is a very long book and there was a period around 400 pages in when I thoug 4.5 stars, but rounding up because this was a great overall reading experience. I’m glad this novel was based on a real person, Varian Fry, who helped Jewish and other refugees escape Vichy France during WWII. The courage and bravery shown by Fry (and others who worked with and for him) is awe inspiring. I’m also really ok with the fictionalized love story that runs throughout the story and maybe even overpowers it. This is a very long book and there was a period around 400 pages in when I thought it was enough, but then it sped up and had an exciting and meaningful conclusion.
    more
  • Fran Hawthorne
    January 1, 1970
    Varian Fry deserves better than this novel, “The Flight Portfolio.”During World War II, Fry -- an American journalist and upper-class scion --rescued nearly 2,000 artists, intellectuals and political activists, including Marc Chagall and Hannah Arendt, from Nazi-controlled Europe. And indeed, author Julie Orringer dutifully details nearly every example in her way-too-long second novel. But, apparently in an attempt to humanize Fry, Orringer has picked up a controversial rumor that he was a close Varian Fry deserves better than this novel, “The Flight Portfolio.”During World War II, Fry -- an American journalist and upper-class scion --rescued nearly 2,000 artists, intellectuals and political activists, including Marc Chagall and Hannah Arendt, from Nazi-controlled Europe. And indeed, author Julie Orringer dutifully details nearly every example in her way-too-long second novel. But, apparently in an attempt to humanize Fry, Orringer has picked up a controversial rumor that he was a closeted gay. That would be okay if she hadn’t handled this second plot line so badly. In almost every chapter, Fry is brooding over whether his long-lost lover Elliott Grant really wants him and whether to come out of the closet. Oh, and by the way, here’s another artist to rescue.Read one of the many (and shorter) biographies of Fry, instead – or even better, one of the books Fry himself wrote.
    more
  • Suzanne
    January 1, 1970
    There appears to be a flood of new novels about World War II in the offing, many focusing on those who resisted Nazi ideology or military occupation, in one way or another. Julie Orringer's new novel is likely to stand out from the crowd precisely because it doesn't over-emphasize derring-do -- Varian Fry, in her telling, is a reluctant hero as he tries to save Marc Chagall and others from an evil that he and others are only beginning to understand will become known as the Holocaust. Instead, Or There appears to be a flood of new novels about World War II in the offing, many focusing on those who resisted Nazi ideology or military occupation, in one way or another. Julie Orringer's new novel is likely to stand out from the crowd precisely because it doesn't over-emphasize derring-do -- Varian Fry, in her telling, is a reluctant hero as he tries to save Marc Chagall and others from an evil that he and others are only beginning to understand will become known as the Holocaust. Instead, Orringer emphasizes character development: the stress that living in a quasi-occupied world (Vichy France) places on Fry and his motley group of helpers and on those desperately trying to find a way out of Europe before it's too late.Orringer blends fact with fiction here, and deals with questions such as which lives are most worth saving -- and how one should make that assessment. When Fry's college lover calls on him to help a young man -- whom the lover describes as a brilliant scientist -- those issues come front and center. Who gets saved -- and at what price? I found this a little slow to get into, in spite of my existing interest in Fry and his activities. And I'd still urge anyone interested in the tale to read "Villa Air-Bel" by Rosemary Sullivan, the immensely readable non-fiction account of these events. Orringer draws on it heavily but has taken some creative license, in ways that sometimes worked for me, and sometimes felt like they were a step too far. But overall, this was a tremendously readable novel. Best of all, Orringer doesn't adopt that slyly knowing stance that too many of those writing about World War II do -- her characters understand that there is serious threat to those they are helping leave Europe, but there aren't any anachronistic hints about exactly WHAT was about to happen in Poland and eastern Europe, or overly-heavy foreshadowing. Her characters know what they could have known at the time, no more and no less. They understand the serious threats to those who think and speak freely, even as they struggle to understand how it could have gone so wrong. And it's to Orringer's credit that she has found ways to combine a sense of personal vulnerability on Fry's part -- she emphasizes his sexuality, and the background of his lover as main plot threads -- with the broader story. I received an advance e-galley from the publisher via Edelweiss, but my views and opinions are my own...
    more
  • Jhoanna
    January 1, 1970
    📚📚📚📚📚
  • James Beggarly
    January 1, 1970
    A wonderful epic about a real life character that I had never heard of before. Varian Fry was sent to France to try and get out as many artists that were enemies of the Nazis, either because of the art they created or because of their Jewish heritage or a combination of both. Not only is that story fascinating and fraught with danger at every turn, but the author adds the return of a past love to Fry’s life, making the story doubly engaging. A very powerful, and personal, look at a time in histo A wonderful epic about a real life character that I had never heard of before. Varian Fry was sent to France to try and get out as many artists that were enemies of the Nazis, either because of the art they created or because of their Jewish heritage or a combination of both. Not only is that story fascinating and fraught with danger at every turn, but the author adds the return of a past love to Fry’s life, making the story doubly engaging. A very powerful, and personal, look at a time in history that seems to have become relevant once again.
    more
  • Joy Pope
    January 1, 1970
    Fabulous.
  • Audrey
    January 1, 1970
    An ambitious but uneven novel. Varian Fry was a fascinating person who did a lot of good during WWII. He smuggled and assisted a lot of artists and social democrats out of Marseilles in Vichy France. Here, we see in copious detail, how he and his staff accomplished this by working various channels and the stress involved. His personal life and conflicts were just as fascinating. There has been debate whether Fry was a closeted gay man and whether it’s even relevant to the story. To me, it’s rele An ambitious but uneven novel. Varian Fry was a fascinating person who did a lot of good during WWII. He smuggled and assisted a lot of artists and social democrats out of Marseilles in Vichy France. Here, we see in copious detail, how he and his staff accomplished this by working various channels and the stress involved. His personal life and conflicts were just as fascinating. There has been debate whether Fry was a closeted gay man and whether it’s even relevant to the story. To me, it’s relevant, too often, lgbtq people’s lives have been erased or ignored and they were hunted and persecuted during this time period. Fry’s own son wrote into the NYT book review to state that his father was a closeted and probably was bipolar. The invented character, Grant, as Fry’s boyfriend was fully drawn and realized instead of a peripheral one. My issue was that it wasn’t evenly paced. I was so excited during the first chapter but it dragged after that. Too many characters were introduced and thrown in. The moral dilemmas as to who made the list and who didn’t was interesting as was the entitlement of some of the artists (no, we can’t travel in a group bunk, we must have first class!). It started to settle down about halfway and I was completely engrossed by around page 300. This book is a commitment. Right now, I’m not sure it was worth it but I have to sit with the book a bit.
    more
  • Mary May
    January 1, 1970
    This book left me feeling how I felt after finishing A Gentleman in Moscow (also 5 stars). I’m emotionally drained and in awe! First of all- it’s long and detailed and not for the faint of heart or anyone looking for a quick read. But ..wow..the writing is excellent. The story of Varian Fry was nothing short of heroic. He smuggled Jewish artists and writers out of occupied France during WW2, devoting his life to saving them and their works too, in some cases. He worked tirelessly to save them, p This book left me feeling how I felt after finishing A Gentleman in Moscow (also 5 stars). I’m emotionally drained and in awe! First of all- it’s long and detailed and not for the faint of heart or anyone looking for a quick read. But ..wow..the writing is excellent. The story of Varian Fry was nothing short of heroic. He smuggled Jewish artists and writers out of occupied France during WW2, devoting his life to saving them and their works too, in some cases. He worked tirelessly to save them, putting his own life at risk every step of the way. The book raises a lot of ethical issues, such as — what makes one life more important than the next? Should the most talented individuals have been saved over the average refugees? Also- the book explores identity...who we really are vs who we tell the world we are and how ‘living a lie’ will destroy us and those we love. Not sure that I like Varian Fry more than Count Rostov, but he’s a close second! I just checked The Invisible Bridge our of the library and can’t wait to start my next Julie Orringer book!
    more
Write a review