The World That We Knew

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 24 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

Five stars for sure.  This was a beautiful book.  Even throughout reading about the brutality of the era, unconditional love, loyalty, and bonds between those in need were evident.  World War II was a horrific time.  Horrible things happened.  This book will be hard to read for some.  

The magical realism is well represented and a genre that I have never explored.  I had to stop and research a lot of the book, but I learned a great deal in doing so.  

I would highly recommend this book to everyone, although it will no be for everyone.
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Funny, I stopped reading a WWII book to read THIS WWII book.  This is a story from a few different perspectives, so there is that jumping around. But it's easy to follow and really great story that pulls you in.

And as always, just enough magic to make it fun. One of the characters is a golem and it comes from her point of view as well.

Oooo, really it was so good!
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Again Hiffman is able to weave reality and wishful fantasy into a wonderful tale of of good versus evil, hope versus despair, and the power of love in all it’s possible incarnations.  These include but are not limited to parental/familial love, romantic love, love of friends, love of country, love of ideals, innocent love and tragic love.  Though there are a flood of World War II novels, Hoffman creates a whole new experience for the reader when we look through her lens.  She sings us a song of bravery, hope, pain, joy, fear, anger, courage, loyalty, selflessness and both the power and the frailty of the human condition.  There is no unnecessary characters, no extraneous digressions.  You will be moved by your memorable journey through this world.
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Stop the presses! Hands down the best book of the year! Someone needs to call Gwendoline Christie and get this made into a movie straightaway!,
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To sum this book up in one word: magic. 

Hoffman's novel is set in France during the Nazi occupation. Its main characters are a young group of refugee German Jews and Parisian Jews, along with a few French citizens, most of whom become involved in the resistance. This could make The World that We Knew interesting enough, but added to the mix is a rich layer of magical realism. A young girl, Lea, one of the German refugees has had to flee home at her mother's orders,  leaving both her mother and grandmother behind. 

In order to protect Lea, her mother convinces a rabbi's rebellious daughter to make a golem, a creature of clay brought to life by Judaic magic. The golem, alive but not human, is charged with protecting Lea. So the story Hoffman takes us into in not just a story of loss and resistance, but one about the nature of human identity itself. Ava, the golem, becomes an increasingly complex, and increasingly human, as the story progresses. 

The novel's end is perfect—happy and tragic and inevitable and redemptive all at once. Hoffman's  weaving together of these these different stories is deft and engrossing. As I said at the beginning: magical.
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Alice Hoffman is the queen of magical realism and with good reason. I was drawn into the world that Hoffman created through her vivid descriptions and poignantly drawn characters.  The best World War II book I've read yet, aside from All The Light We Cannot See.
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Another magical read by Alice Hoffman. I would have finished this book in one sitting if life would have allowed. A perfect blend of history, folklore, mysticism and love kept me glued to the story. I see this becoming a movie. And as I read the book I saw each character so clearly.
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This is a FANTASTIC historical fiction book
It takes place in Paris between 1941-1945, during the war and holocaust. 
Its not real graphic but does explain what was done to so many people at that time and how the world was.
The story explains about what happens to a hand full of different families and how their lives were intertwined.
The author explains that she wrote this book because of an encounter she had with a survivor of that time period.
The women asked her to write about the holocaust" so people would not forget"
This is a fiction story with real life written in and it made the story so much more brilliant.
The author is so amazing at explaining everything from what the characters look like to what the streets of Paris look like, It made me see it all in my mind.

I was not interested in history or anything to do with any of the wars that happened in the past, I'm so glad I looked past that and read this story. It was so much more than just that. This is about human tragedy, about mothers and sisters and brothers love for one another and how love will give you a will to live.

I believe anyone with an interest in wanting to know what the past was like to pick up this book.
It was a truly fantastic read!
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I received an advanced digital copy of this book from the author, Simon and Schuster and Netgalley.com. Thanks to all for the opportunity to read and review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. 

The name Alice Hoffman is synonymous with the phrase 'excellent writing'. This book lives up to, and in this reviewers opinion, surpasses that comparison.  The story's basis being the Holocaust and survival, she has still been able to touch on the magic of everyday things without becoming fantastical and detracting from the very serious subject matter. Ms. Hoffman continues to enchant with that most magical of all things, a story about love overcoming all.

5 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended.
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Thank you to Simon and Schuster and Netgalley.  Hoffman is a gifted writer and this book does not disappoint.  Set in 1941, this tale of WWII era with 3 unforgettable women grasped my attention.  There's love and sacrifice together in this powerful novel. Thank you!
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Alice Hoffman's WWII magical realism novel captures your interest with a cast of intriguing characters including a mystical Golem, Ava, created to protect a young girl, Lea, from the Nazis. They travel to France to escape Berlin and arrive shortly before the French government is taken over by the Nazis. They and the people they meet along the way go into hiding and join the resistance.

Love and sacrifice as well as the uncertainty of life and death figure of prominently in the story. What makes us human is another theme explored in this well written book.

I have enjoyed many books by this author and this one did not disappoint.
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What a wonderful book. I'm still thinking about it hours later. A story of such tragic loss with hope, love and mystical fantasy intertwined. I generally steer away from fantasy but I love this author's work so dug right in and was not disappointed. I highly recommend this book
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I like Alice Hoffman though my love for her books is uneven. [she is quite prolific;  one can't be expected to like/love them all equally]. This one--not such much. 3.5 but cannot round up--I am [again] in the minority. Perhaps I needed to take more of a break from WWII/Holocaust novels though this is not a bash over the head/concentration camp tome. Rather, it is  deals more with other issues such as the resistance/Vichy France, and the plight of Jewish orphans. And, it is one of Hoffman's magic realism/mystical reads--though in spurts [and more towarrds the end].

Good vs evil, love and loss, what is real? [lots of magical realism/folk tales].

Ettie, daughter of a rabbi, creates a golem--named Ava--at the behest of Hanni Kohn. Ava's charge is to protect Lea, Hanni's daughter---and to leave Berlin with her.  It is primarily a story of these women [and more--e.g., Madeleine/Marie, (mother superior) , Marianne--a farmer's daughter, and Bobeshi, Lea's grandmother [the source of many folk tales of wolves, etc].  Men also have a role--in particular Victor and Julien Levi, Dr. Girard, a heron, and Azriel, the Angel of Death.

Certainly well-written. I think my favorite phrase was "...the air was eggshell thin." I liked Ava the most--she was a fully developed character though I don't believe that was her creator's intention.

One detraction for me was that I predicted nearly every story arc. And no spoiler from me--the ending.
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I have become a huge fan of Alice Hoffman based on this book.  This was a fascinating mix of both fantasy and historical fiction - two genres I would not have expected to be paired together, or paired as well as she's managed to do.  There is no shortage of books based on Nazi Germany and the holocaust; there are a lot of them, frankly.  Some good, some not so good, and that's not necessarily a complaint.  What Hoffman managed to do is tell a story that's been told over and over again, in a way that (for me, at least) brings a fresh new perspective and made me feel like it was the first time I'd read about it.  Hoffman focused not on the concentration camps, but on the Jews who chose to stand up and fight for their right to simply live their lives.  The addition of mythical creatures and the Angel of Death added an interesting and unexpected twist that kept the book moving for me.  The characters were so alive and real for me, and Hoffman has an amazing way with words that transports you into the story before you even realize it.  

Solid 4.5 stars, and highly recommend!
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The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman is a breathtaking novel set mainly in occupied France 1940s during WWII. It also incorporates Berlin as well. 
The novel interweaves several characters (Lea/Hanni/Ava, Marriane/Victor/Julien/Ettie/Henri, amongst many other fascinating souls). 
The author is brilliant at creating a masterpiece that builds slowly, but surely, with a complexity that is truly divine. The ending so true, satisfying, yet leaves your heart aching, is a lasting tribute to the souls that were lost during this unspeakable time. 
The religious aspects that are added throughout (Protestant, Catholicism, and Judaism) gives the book meaning and purpose that takes your breath away.
I usually do not read books that have a mystical/third-world component, and this is the first book that I have read by Ms. Hoffman, but I have to say that I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and also felt that it fit perfectly with the story, as if it belonged there amongst the living. 
The imagery was beautifully done, and the descriptions of how the characters felt, what emotions they wrestled through, the sacrifices they made, were just amazing. 
The heron was truly my favorite aspect of the story. 
Even if you normally do not read fiction that has a mystic component, you need to break that pattern and read this. 
I truly have to say this is a top book for me this year, it was just that great.

5/5 stars enthusiastically 

Thank you NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for this ARC and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.
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Almost any Alice Hoffman book will touch you to your core The World that we Knew is no different. Her ability to weave a fantasy,  folklore, historical  story with heart and emotion is a gift. A very touching tale on loss, perseverance and hope.
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This book was very moving.   The combination of magic and history worked.    My mother is Jewish and left Germany because of the Nazis in 1939.    Then she went to the Philippines and experienced the war on the Pacific front which she would not have had to do if Hitler had not come to power.    I mention my mother's background because books given my family's history the Holocaust is a sensitive subject.    However, I felt that Alice Hoffman handled the subject very well.

Usually, I leave it to the publishers to describe the content of the book.    However, I think it is worth mentioning that most of the action in the book takes place in France..

People who like Alice Hoffman's book The Dovekeepers will probably like this book.
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A little more than six years ago I read The Golem and the Jinni, (#1) and shortly after that, I read The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope, which I might have struggled with the concept of a man created out of earth and clay more had I not read The Golem and the Jinni, and I enjoyed both of those stories, but this one took my breath away.

Beautifully written, this story is shared with just the right touch of magical realism needed to lend it the air of a lyrical fairy-tale set in Germany and France during World War II. This golem brought to life by Ettie, the daughter of a rabbi, who has overheard her father create a golem once. And so Ettie creates this female being to protect Lea, daughter of Hanni, who must leave Berlin for her own safety. Strict rules come with the creation of such a creature, including ensuring the destruction after a limited period of time. Lea must leave for her own protection, but her mother can’t leave her own mother behind, and so Hanni convinces Lea to go with Ava.

At its heart, this is a love story, but it is more about love in a general sense – our love of life, the everyday moments we take for granted, the beauty in the world isn’t always so easily recognized in days like these, when living an ordinary, everyday kind of life isn’t even possible. And yet, even in dark times – and these were very dark times – there always seems to be that thread of love and hope and perhaps most important of all - humanity. There is some romantic love, as well as embracing our love of this gift we’ve been given of life, and how to honor it by honoring the humanity in others, themes that flow through these pages. The always strong, beating heart of this, though, is the maternal love shown through Hanni’s sacrifice for her daughter’s benefit, and the maternal love of Ava, who represents the fiercely protective, nurturing maternal nature of mothers.

Set in a time of rising evil infecting the land, this is an extraordinary portrait of the never-ending nature, and power, of love.


Pub Date: 24 Sep 2019

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Simon & Schuster
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I have read several of Alice Hoffman’s book and loved them. This has been the hardest to read solely for the subject matter but is also really REALLY good! I love it. The writing is raw and beautiful at the same time and the characters, you just want to sit and braid their hair or hug them. Life is hard and this story reflects it well for the time period.
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A completely different take on being a Jew during the Nazi regime, The World that we Knew incorporates magic/fantasy to embellish the story.  Even with some magic, there is sadness and loss.  Hoffman explores love, sacrifice and determination.
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