The World That We Knew

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 24 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

This was a solid historical fiction read.  I will probably look up the references in the back to learn more about the children's home that was raided and several other events in France during the Holocaust period.  There is a bit of magical realism in the form of a golem, but it is well done and does not over-power the story.  I loved the golem's relationship with the heron. It felt symbolic.  The story, however, revolves around several young people and their struggle to survive as well as help others survive.  The writing is a bit prosaic but I enjoyed it.
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Fiction books about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust seem to be all the rage today.  However, "The World That We Knew" by Alice Hoffman is quite different than any of the others that I've read.  This is a beautiful book with themes of love, the sustaining power of hope, and the necessity of sacrifice.  Alice Hoffman is a gifted storyteller.  Parts of this book were absolutely heart-wrenching and painful to read.  I wept openly on more than one occasion, a tribute to the author's extraordinary storytelling that made each character so real that I became emotionally attached.  I was truly moved by this story of strong women and the power of a mother's love for her daughter.  I really cannot say enough good things about this book-it is easily one of the best novels I have ever read.

After Hanni's daughter, twelve-year-old Lea, has a frightening encounter with a German soldier, Hanni knows she must get her out of Berlin.  She enlists the help of Ettie, the young daughter of a rabbi, and together they create a golem they call Ava to protect Lea as she flees from Germany to France.  The interconnected story lines about Ettie, Marianne (a French woman who plays an important role in ushering Jewish refugees to safety), and two young men who are part of the French Resistance complete and round out the richly developed plot.  Realistically, not every character gets his or her happily-ever-after.

This is a perfect book for a book club because there is so much to unwrap and discuss.  

Many thanks to NetGalley, Simon and Schuster, and Alice Hoffman for the privilege of reading an advanced digital copy of this extraordinary book in exchange for my honest review.
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Alice Hoffman writes ethereal stories that make you feel like you are part of them and make you wish they would never end even though you want all of their revelations.
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Berlin 1941.  The Nazis are in control.  Jews are starving, and families disappear each day.  Even a minor offense can get a Jew killed.

Hanni Kohn exists in the midst of all this.  Her husband has been killed by the Nazis, and as much as she wants to flee, she cannot because she is unable to leave her bedridden mother alone.  She can, however, try to save her 12-year-old daughter Lea.  To do so, she entreats help from a rabbi but instead gets it from his daughter Ettie, who creates a “golem” in the shape of a woman from clay and water — to watch over Lea and to keep her safe until the end of the war.  This golem, named Ava, will intertwine with Lea as she escapes Berlin for France, along with Ettie and Ettie’s sister.  Thus begins the story of Lea’s and Ettie’s journeys to and in France as they go on the run to get away from the horrors of their homeland.

I have enjoyed other of Hoffman’s novels, but this one left me flat.  I struggled to get into it and struggled through most of it as I read along.  Although Hoffman’s writing was as lyrically gorgeous as ever, the plot seemed to move along much too slowly, and I thought that the characters were not well developed.  It was difficult for me to finish this, and I almost gave up a few times.  But because of the author, I plodded on.  Maybe it was that Hoffman’s usually wonderful mystical realism just didn’t work for me in a World War II setting.  May it was that the idea of a “golem” coming to life to protect Lea seemed a but far-fetched.  For whatever reason, this novel just did not work for me.
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Alice Hoffman has written another beautifully, heart wrenching, poetic novel about love, loss, sacrifice and war. The element of Jewish mysticism that she has brought to this story makes it stand out from all the other novels on the subject of World War II.  The World That We Knew is exquisitely written. It will grab you from page one and you will cherish every word until the end. I found myself rereading sentences and paragraphs over and over because hey we’re so beautifully written and thought provoking. Thank you NetGalley, Simon & Schuster and Alice Hoffman for the privilege  of reading this ARC for an honest review. I have read The Dovekeepers and The Marriage of Opposites and now I am able to add this book as another Hoffman favorite.  Make sure to look for The World That We Knew when it comes out on September 24, 2019.
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Alice Hoffman has once again written a novel that mixes reality with magical elements and brings unforgettable characters to life. The World That We Knew centers around the tragedy of WWII in Germany with Jewish characters fleeing to survive while others in the resistance fight against the Nazis. The characters are woven though the story, connected in ways but not always together. It’s an amazing story of love, sacrifice, and loss – a story so deep that you will be touched by it long after you put the book down. Do not miss out on this novel – highly recommended!
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Alice Hoffman writes beautifully even among tragedy and pain. 

Thanks to Netgalley for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.
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I was unable to finish this book and thus will not be posting a full review.  It could very well be that this book is just not for me because I have enjoyed several of Alice Hoffman's previous books and I do think she excels at historical fiction.  I was just unable to follow this book -- there were so many characters and allusions that I fell flat.  Thanks for your consideration.
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I love this Author and I loved this book. Alice Hoffman never disappoints.

I was so enthralled reading this book I actually forgot I was working out on my treadmill. It is unputdownable and I highly recommend. 

All the stars!
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I didn’t hate this story and enjoyed the magical realism aspects of it, but I would have loved more! I’ve read countless books centered around WWII, and this story didn’t seem to offer much I haven’t heard before.
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Berlin, 1941: Hanni Kohn is fighting against evil. The world (especially for a Jewish woman) is changing. Hanni decides to send her 12-year-old daughter Lea away to save her from the Nazi regime.

She’s told to visit a renowned rabbi’s wife for aid, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who possesses the ability to give Hanni the answer to her prayers. Together they create Ava, a golem who is a rare and mystical creature and sworn to protect Lea.

Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea embark on their journey for survival. This journey will force Lea to grow up too quickly. Lea, along with several other characters we meet, will sacrifice and endure much in the way of love and possibility.

Do you ever read books where you don’t want to finish because that means the story will end? Yea, that was this for me.

I’m a HUGE Alice Hoffman fan, and this novel did not disappoint. This is not your average historical fiction, because in true fashion she throws in magical realism. It was easy to become immersed in this stunning, tragic story. I became so attached to her characters, particularly Ava as I wondered where her fate would lead her. The ending to this novel was just beautiful.

The World That We Knew will take your breath away. Thank you Alice Hoffman for writing this!

Available for purchase on Sept. 24 by Simon & Schuster.
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Well, I opened this book and became totally immersed in this dark, but stunningly beautiful story. Taking place in Germany and France during WWII, we follow a cast of characters trying to survive the assault of the Nazis as they connect and reconnect throughout the story. 
There are dark times and horrible events, yet frindship, love, sacrifice, and the magic of life and nature sustain our cast (and me while reading). What will a mother do to save her child? How does a child preserve the memory of parents? How does one fight evil? How does love find a light in the dark?
I could tell you all the characters names, who goes where, and all the important details, but don't count on it. Just read the book like I did - go to the first page and jump in.
I don't know who to blame or thank for keeping me up so late at night till I finished, and making me cry, but thank you Alice Hoffman. Thank you also NetGalley and FSG for an advanced copy. You rock .
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The World That We Knew is a tale of the Holocaust that is relevant in today’s United States. 

“That was how evil spoke. It made its own corrupt sense; it swore that the good were evil, and that the evil had come to save mankind.”

In Germany, Jews have been “othered”, cast as beasts and criminals. They’ve been banned from holding jobs, owning businesses, going to school. They’ve been torn from their homes, separated from their families and sent to camps.

But this book is more than just a recitation of facts we already know. It digs a little deeper, sharing less commonly known tidbits, like the Evian conference in 1938, where delegates from 31 of the 32 attending countries in the League of Nations refused to admit Jewish refugees. 

“When you were young you were afraid of ghosts, and when you were aged you called them to you.”

This statement makes my heart ache. It’s about how ghosts seem to walk with us when we age and the comfort they can provide if we see them in a certain way.

“Children over the age of three had been separated from their parents, and many were crying, lost in a sea of people.”

Keep in mind two things about the above quote describing the Vel d’Hiv, the notorious round up of all Jews in Paris which ended for most of them at the velodrome, on a train or at a concentration camp.

First, even Nazis weren’t so cruel to separate children under age three from their parents—and their cruelty is the stuff of nightmares.

Second, separating children from their parents was notable in the context of this book because it is so awful.

“...and people who had been taken away continued to walk with you, in dreams and in the waking world.”

Again, Hoffman includes the idea of the dead continuing with loved ones, like guardian angels.

“If you are loved, you never lose the person who loved you. You carry them with you all your life.”

This is an incredibly moving sentiment and absolutely true. We can feel love beyond the grave, even when a loved one has passed. Especially in this novel where characters are going through the most difficult moments in their lives, the love is like a balm and an elixir, helping them to persevere.

When picking up a World War II historical fiction novel, a reader knows at least one beloved character will die by the end, and likely more. TWTWK is a little different and much more unpredictable. It’s a moving WW2 story that will burrow into your heart next to the love you carry for your famil
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This was my first Alice Hoffman novel and it was such a beautiful mix of historical fiction with magical realism. It took me longer to read this book than most because I was truly captured by the depth of the story. What happened during this time period still haunts me, but the level of passion and pain mixed into this story touched my heart. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the ARC to read and review.
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Wow! Hoffman has managed to take my breath away once again. As is common with Hoffman's work, there is a supernatural spin on this tale of survival. Hanni is a woman hiding from Nazis in 1944 Berlin. She kills a German soldier to save her 12 year old daughter,Lea,  from rape and murder. Hanni then decides to send her daughter away without her. There is a Jewish legend that a creature called a golem can be made from clay and water to do its creator's bidding. Hanni first appeals to a fellow Jews known to have successfully create the golem.  They refuse her so she desperately makes Ava herself.  She sends Ava and Lea away to safety but not before telling Ava her only goal is to protect and love Lea the way Hanni no longer can. 
The journey that follows for Ava, Hanni,and Lea is a discovery of humanity even in an entity that is not supposed to be human. I think the fact that rights as actual humans have been taken a way,the cast of characters are forced to find humanity among each other in unusual ways. I loved how Ava goes from an unfeeling,  strictly by the book guardian to a parent.  Lea rejects Ava at first because she is scared,I think, and doesn't want to accept what's happening. She definitely rebels as teenagers do but as she becomes a witness to death and love and war,she matures and makes a sacrifice for Ava that reflects that. I love animals and Ava forms a bond with a heron who plays an important role as a messenger for both Ava and Lea. The story of the Holocaust and Auschwitz,although told by many authors over the years, has a fresh heartwrenching spin that is relatable to us all in some way.
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The power of this novel is difficult to put into words. The basics: descriptions, character development, plot, lyrical language--it is all perfect and wound together so well that I was caught up in the story from the very beginning. But it is the power of the story itself, the passion and pain, that enlightened and will haunt me. The role of magic is just the right touch and never seems contrived but reinforces the role of family and love in life. This novel will be in the top tier of best-of for 2019.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the ARC to read and review.
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I will buy anything Alice Hoffman puts on the shelf. She's always such an amazing storyteller and her characters are so sympathetic no matter how broken they are. This book is more of a historical novel than some of her others, but her magic is still inside the pages. I don't want to give too much away, but I will be giving copies of this book away for Christmas. I loved it so much!
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I seem to be in the vast minority here, but I didn’t love this book. Alice Hoffman, author of magical realism gems like Practical Magic and The Museum of Extraordinary Things, excels at weaving fantastical, enchanting tales. While The World That We Knew retains the elements Hoffman is known for, it fell flat for me and I found the narrative tedious in many respects.

At the outbreak of WWII, Jewish mother Hanni Kohn knows that she must get her daughter, Lea, out of Berlin if she’s to have any chance of survival. With an ailing mother who cannot walk, Hanni cannot accompany her daughter across the border, so she contacts a rabbi who she hopes will make her a golem, a mystical creature of Jewish lore who is sworn to protect whomever it is made for. When the rabbi refuses, his daughter Ettie does the dangerous job in his place.

The golem, named Ava, looks and acts like a human woman, but is stronger and has no feelings. She swears to Hanni to protect Lea, and soon Lea, Ava, Ettie, and Ettie’s sister, Marta, board a train to Paris where they plan to begin their lives anew under false French names.

After arriving in Paris, I had a hard time staying invested in any of the branching narratives, following Ettie on a mission for revenge or Lea and Ava as they grow closer to the French family that harbors them. The women move around France and meet new people so often that I had often forgotten characters’ names when they were mentioned again later in the book. Tragic tales of sickness and loss were sprinkled throughout the text, but often in relation to characters (the doctor, for example) to whom the reader had barely been introduced.

While I wanted The World That We Knew to combine to winning elements of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale with Hoffman’s The Foretelling, I unfortunately found myself fighting to stay interested in this story. I’d recommend other WWII stories, such as All the Light We Cannot See and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society before this one.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Its 1941 and the Nazi's are invading Berlin. Hanni Kohn sends her daughter away to save her from the Nazi Regime. Ettie a rabbi's daughter runsaway from home to save herself from the Nazi Regime and Ava who is a Jewish Mystical creature created to keep Lea safe. 

I loved this book. I usually do not pick up a book with magical realism because it's not for me but this only had a tad bit in it. The flow of the story worked so well for me that I finished it quickly. This story broke my heart over and over again into tiny little pieces. Some of the characters we meet and their back story oh my heart couldn't handle it. This story is written beautifully and wondered how the author was going to end it. Great job!

THANK YOU Netgalley and Simon & Shuster for providing and ARC of The World That We Knew By Alice Hoffman
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This book was beautiful and heart wrenching at the same time!! I absolutely loved it!!

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own
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