The World That We Knew

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 24 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

Alice Hoffman is an amazing storyteller. This book did not disappoint. She took some terrible events from WWII and created a story with great characters. The main character and the secondary characters were all interesting and kept you reading the story. She also has a way to weave a spiritual aspect in her stories that makes it just flow so beautifully. Thank you NetGalley for an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review,
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What is good? What is evil? How far should a mother go to protect her child? Is it okay to do something bad in order to do something good? These are all questions one is forced to ask oneself in this book that will tear your heart to shreds while at the same time make you rejoice in the hope of humanity.  This was the first book I have read by Alice Hoffman,  and you can best believe I will be reading as many as I can possibly get my hands on now!!
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This is now my new favorite Alice Hoffman book I’ve read. You wouldn’t think magical realism and WWII would cohesively go together in a novel but of course Alice Hoffman pulls it off. You can tell that much research went into it. I’ve read many historical fiction books about WWII & the Holocaust, but this one is very different.  Highly recommend!!
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In Berlin, at the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation when she creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked.

Lea and Ava travel from Paris, where Lea meets her soulmate, to a convent in western France known for its silver roses; from a school in a mountaintop village where three thousand Jews were saved. Meanwhile, Ettie is in hiding, waiting to become the fighter she’s destined to be. Thank you to Netgalley for my honest review
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***Possible spoilers***
Absolute favorite book I've read so far this year.  Reminded me of The Nightingale and All The Light We Cannot See in tone, with magical realism thrown in.  I've enjoyed other books by Alice Hoffman, but this is my favorite by far.  Well-written characters, the story is told from multiple perspectives, including the POV of the golem created to protect a young Jewish girl as she escapes from Germany into France in 1941. Hiding in homes of distant relatives and a convent throughout the war, Lea comes of age, falls in love and survives the Nazi occupation of France.  The golem, Ava, completes her mission of protecting her charge, eventually becoming self-realized with plans of her own.  Ava's relationship with the crane in the book is magical as it is beautiful, made even more stunning with the brutal background of the Nazi occupiers.
***I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley***
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Wow… This book is both tragic and beautiful, surreal and very, very real. It was my first time reading a book by Alice Hoffman, and at first I wasn’t sure magical realism and WW2 we’re going to mix well. I was wrong. Very wrong. I finished it over a week ago and still can’t stop thinking about it. I literally haven’t been able to start another book yet because I am still swimming through the after effects that this book has on me!

The World That We Knew is the story of a mother who goes to such extreme lengths to save her daughter that she creates another being, a golem who will protect her daughter in ways that she never would be able to. It then becomes a story of survival in Nazi Germany and then in occupied France, the story of being hunted, and standing up against the occupier. From 1941 to the end of the war we follow Lea, Julien, and Ava’s lives, as well as those intricately tied to them, like Marianne and Victor. The story is based in France for the main part, in areas not far from where I grew up (south east), and I am very familiar with the terrain as well as the resistance groups, the maquis, and the safe houses described. The characters have so much to fight and live for, all the while knowing that they may not survive another day in a world that wants their death. 

The World That We Knew could have ended up being a weird mix of Kabbalah, spiritualism, war, resistance, survival, and magic. But instead, in my opinion, turned into a beautiful story of love and survival against all odds. I have read so many WW2 novels, and historical fiction written about that time, especially in France, will always be my jam. But the market for this topic has become a little saturated with under researched and over romanticized pulpy novels. The World That We Knew is a breath of fresh air, and takes the reader to another level entirely. Alice Hoffman obviously extensively researched the resistance networks and the area she has written about, as well as mystical Judaism AND the history of the Huguenots. There is so much at play in this novel, so much information provided, but it all falls into place perfectly. 

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy of this novel!
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Alice Hoffman describes the inherent magic in being alive in this world like no other writer -- and she succeeds brilliantly in the haunting story of daughters and sisters and mothers expressing their love and living as outcasts, refugees, and outlaws doing the best they can do in World War II. A mother's love is the basis for a complex interplay of stories:  she protects her daughter by finding a rabbi's daughter to create a golem (manmade being) as companion, guardian, and guide when she sends her daughter from Berlin to safety while remaining behind to tend her own ailing mother. The characters are complex, fascinating, and realistic as is the magic and beauty that remain even in the horrors of war.  While the story staggered in its smooth storytelling in parts, this was a minor issue in an otherwise shimmering piece of novelistic magic.
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Alice Hoffman has not written a book that I didn't love. This is one of my favorites. It is well written with characters that you care about. This story is set in WWll France. It's a story of the pain and suffering of separation of family and friends. What won't you do for the ones you love? It will have you crying from the harsh realities of war, but with hope that never stops.  It is a magical story with a Golem created with love for a child.  The story is well researched and the history of that time captured as it really was. I recommend this book highly. I received this book from Net Galley and Simon and Schuster for a honest review..
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Every time I read an Alice Hoffman novel, I swear I have a new favorite.  THE WORLD THAT WE KNEW, coming out later this September, was spellbinding.  The origin of the story itself, based on an interaction with a reader after an event, is fascinating.  Hoffman’s talent shines with her word choices and she transforms the narrative by blending her trademark magical storytelling with historical events during WWII. I was nervous as a reader to see how you can tell this story this way but am such a big Hoffman fan that I had to trust that she could.  The journey of Ava is one not to be missed as she grows from the earth and into so much more.  The way that Azriel is portrayed in the novel and the haunting words used to capture the departed will have you reading into the wee hours of the night to see how the end plays out.  The world is full of demons and angels.  Yet, even with the storytelling and fantasy elements, the reader is invested in every single historical detail about the Jewish children that were hidden and hardened and honed (while still feeling so much love and connection despite all their losses) during this atrocious time in history and those that risked everything to save them.  Read this book – especially if you appreciated The Book Thief.  Amazing.  
I received an Advance Review Copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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I am not a fan of magic realism.   But Alice Hoffman is the exception that proves the rule, as I have loved every book of hers that I’ve read.  

The book takes place during World War Two.  Lea’s mother, Hanni, knows she must send her daughter Lea, away from Berlin.   Ava is a golem, a soulless creature created to act as a guardian to Lea.  Ettie, the daughter of a rabbi, is the one who creates Ava, thereby linking the three of them.  We hear from each of them with their individual stories.   Each story reveals their strength, their love, their humanity, yes, even “soulless” Ava.  It’s not often that I care equally about multiple main characters.  Once again, Hoffman is the exception to the rule. 

As always, Hoffman transports us.  Numerous books have tackled the terror of the Nazi regime, yet Hoffman brought up things I’ve never read elsewhere.  Her research was intense but is woven seamlessly into the stories.  Primarily a story of survival, it also shows us the best and worst of humanity.  

My thanks to netgalley and Simon & Schuster for an advance copy of this book.
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Alice Hoffman is a go-to author for me. The history is always deeply researched, her characters flushed out and made human, and the writing...well, it is just magical. In her latest novel, set in WWII France, Hoffman makes good on a promise made to an audience member at a book talk, to tell the story of the Jewish people, to not forget, to remember the pain and suffering, but also the heroes who arose. Her characters are gorgeous: Ettie, the rabbi's daughter who wants to study with the boys, who creates the golem to protect a child, who fights for her world; Hanni, who suffers the greatest loss, who pours her tears into the golem's eyes so that she looks on her child with a mother's love, who knows the world as she knew it is gone; Lea, the child to be protected, who grows into a woman who sees the possibility in the new world to come, who must make the most painful choice of life or death; Julian and Victor, the two disparate brothers, who watch their Parisian world be destroyed, who fight in different ways, who sacrifice everything; Marianne and her father, the Huguenots, who rebel in the French mountains and fight to save thousands of Jewish children, to change their world; and Ava, the golem, made of mud and blood and tears, who is bound to protect, to defend, to kill if need be, who dances with a heron, who sees the Angel of Death and the World to Come, who must find a place in this world. Do. Not. Miss. This. Book.
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I received a free copy of The World That We Knew in exchange for an honest review
The World That We Knew takes place during World War 2 and is the story of a woman who must be very courageous to suffer the horrors of war.
She must send her daughter away to save her from the Nazis.
How can one survive without their mother.
Find out by reading this very poignant book
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Alice Hoffman owes me the entire day I spent reading The World That We Knew. Of course I’m the one in her debt for writing such a wonderful novel. It’s filled with a mesmerizing story of the realities of war and the role of religion, the soul, courage, horror, fantasy, and love. Hoffman’s writing is lyrical, the intertwined stories are riveting, and her characters and settings, often the same, are beautifully wrought. This may be her best book.
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Magical realism meets World War II in this captivating new novel by Alice Hoffman. 

In Berlin, Hanni, the mother of a young Jewish girl, seeks drastic measures in order to protect her  young daughter Lea.  With the help of Ettie, the daughter of a Rabbi, a golem called Ava is created to protect Lea and to care for her as if she were her own.

Fleeing Berlin together, Lea and Ava make it into France where they live in relative safety for most of the next few years.  Each one discovers love while in France.  Lea falls in love with Julien and Ava falls in love with a heron.

The appearance of the heron throughout the story was very symbolic.  The heron stands for peace and tranquility and a path to self-determination, which is what happens for each of the characters in the story.  In the story, the heron helps Lea and Julien keep in touch with each other when they are separated.  Their mantra to each other was to “stay alive.”

Hoffman focuses more on the Resistance and the regular people who helped the Jews stay in hiding.  There are no chapters involving life in a concentration camp, although the characters are aware of what happens in the camps.

Throughout the story both Ava and Lea question if they can fulfill her mother’s wishes.  At times they doubt each other.  Learning to trust, learning what love truly is, the characters grow into who they are to become and all this leads to a very inspiring ending.  

I think this is one of Hoffman’s best novels and highly recommend it to readers.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for allowing me to read an advance copy and offer my honest review.
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The World That We Knew review 

There have been many books written about the Holocaust lately. However Alice Hoffman’s newest book is very different from the others. A Jewish mother in Berlin wants to get her daughter, Lea,  out of the city to Paris where the family has relatives. So the mother goes to see a rabbi who deals in the magic arts. When the rabbi is not available, his defiant daughter, Etta, uses the magical power to create a golem out of clay and water and in return for jewels from Lea’s mother. The golem, named Ava, is charged with getting Lea to safety. 

Lea, Etta and her sister as well as Ava board a train to Paris with forged passports and new names. However before the train arrives in France, German soldiers board and remove anyone suspected of being a Jew. Etta and her sister, Marta, flee but then Marta is shot by the Germans. Etta continues on foot to France where she eventually joins a Jewish resistance group. She mourns her sister and does anything in her power to avenge the death.

Lea and Ava arrive in Paris at the home of Ava’s cousins, the Levis. Lea becomes friendly with the younger son, Julien, and eventually ends up in a Catholic convent near where Etta is helping Julien’s older brother, Victor, with the Resistance. All the while Ava continues to use magical powers to keep Lea safe.

There are many characters in this book and Hoffman uses them to show the power of love. The author also explores the many ways that some Jewish children were able to avoid the gas chambers. This is a powerful book and it explains to readers how it is possible to cope with the inhumanity in the world.

At the end , there is a bibliography of books Hoffman used to research the fates of children who survived the Holocaust as well as the Kabbalah, the source of Jewish mysticism.
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Alice Hoffman is a titan of the publishing business. My favorite book of hers is The Museum of Extraordinary Things. It was the epitome of literary fiction. Wonderful characters, brilliantly brought to life in a wonderful narrative, I was eager to read her latest book. In my opinion, her choice of subject matter has been over done. The Holocaust can never be forgotten, but if you are going to tackle the subject you have to write something someone else has not and do it more adeptly. Hoffman has failed to do that. It is very difficult to accept the premise that someone can create a “ golem” to magically protect one German Jewish girl from the Nazis. The magical realism she has attempted feels contrived. At times, the novel becomes explanatory as it lapses into a factual description of the historical events in Europe from 1940-45. She has several story lines overlapping the characters interactions. Improbable and predictable, the story lacked tension and drama. Hoffman can be brilliant and her acclaim is not unwarranted but this book fails to engage. I was very disappointed.
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This was a beautifully written story that immediately drew me in. The characters were wonderfully developed and I felt attached and drawn to them all. There is a lot of historical fiction written about this time period but this somehow felt different. There was an added aspect of fantasy which I felt greatly added to the story, while still keeping true to the tragic history. Highly recommend.
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Thank you NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for an ARC. Alice Hoffman has become one of my favorite authors and her latest is another 5⭐️ read. I rarely read WW2 historical fiction as it all feels the same but Hoffman has written a highly original and hauntingly beautiful story infused with Jewish mysticism and magic realism. This one goes on my all time favorite lists. Publishes late Sept. Put on your TBR!
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This is the story of three young women who must endure a time of war and escaping Nazis and horrors no one could ever imagine. Their stories are entwined in such a way that you’re holding your breath to see what will happen next. It’s the story of strong women that will inspire people of all ages and answer so many important questions.

I really enjoy the way Hoffman can tell a story that leaves your heart racing and page turning but it’s still in the most remarkable subtle way that keeps me coming back for more. She’s an incredibly talented author and I would recommend this book to all!
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*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in return for a fair and honest review. 
I'm a huge fan of Hoffman's work and have been for many years. She is able to seamlessly weave magic into a story that looks effortless, and many of her works are beautiful. That said The World That We Knew was not one of my favorites. It offered all that I crave; strong Jewish women, historical fiction and (be still my heart) a golem. While the book originally held my interest, I found it more difficult as time went on. I often became confused as to who, where and what was happening, and overall it just felt far, far too long. Hoffman is brilliant, she just doesn't shine near as brightly with this one.
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