The World That We Knew

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 24 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

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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This was a great story! I usually don’t like this type of story with the supernatural characters but I fell in love with Ava. Great ending!
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I have to admit that I was ambivalent about the description of this novel, but I was completely swept off of my feet. From the first line, you are pulled into the world painted by Alice Hoffman. Yes, this is historical fiction with a splash of magical realism; and yes, it is awesome. This book is filled with insightful quotes, and will saturate you with sensibility and nostalgia. 

From the involvement of the Huguenots, Jewish resistance groups, Operation Spring Breeze, etc., I was blown away by the amount of history she incorporated. I would say that there is more history surrounding the characters in this novel than fantasy. While this novel does bare magic, the story revolves around the setting in history.
The fantasy advances the internal conflict within the social setting of Germany and France itself while magical realism vividly paints this picture over the atmosphere of WWII that have never been put into words before. Beasts, angels, and fate contribute to the blanket of symbolism and metaphorical environment of Nazi occupied territories. 

I did not enjoy when the golem is made in the beginning. The creation itself seemed to unnecessarily drag on and it almost made me want to stop reading. However, it was only for a chapter, although a tiresome long chapter. This was minute and not enough to take off a star. 
If you like WWII novels, I recommend adding this to your list. 
Thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster, and Alice Hoffman for giving me the opportunity to read and review this novel. The opinions in this review are my own.
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I love Alice Hoffman's writing. It feels so bound to the realistic and then suddenly there is the magic or the spiritual elements that make her books stand out from the crowd.
Most books about WW2 are sad, brutal to read and heartbreaking. Hoffman's is no exception. People die, more than survive. Yet love is interwoven throughout the story and a positivity that tells you there will be goodness at the end, even in the dark moments. 
And her writing is so exquisite and haunting. Like imagining an opera is emerging out of her words, filling my ears with the sounds of the birds, smelling the freshly baked bread and dancing with the animals as Ava did.
Read this and read every other book by Hoffman. Transport yourself away to a time of legends and fairy tales that are firmly placed in our world of today.
Thank you to Netgalley for providing an ARC, this is my honest review.
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The World That We Knew
by Alice Hoffman
due 9-24-2019
Simon and Schuster 
5.0 / 5.0

#netgalley.    #TheWorldThatWeKnow

Alice Hoffman has shared a very essential and harrowing story of the Nazi invasion in Berlin, in the 1940s, and of The Resistance that helped Jewish people to hide and escape. Not since reading 'Night' by Wiesel, have I been so taken and consumed with emotion by a story about the humiliation and torture of Jewish people, forced upon them by the heartless Germans. The detail is richly developed, the emotion so deep, the story flows at a perfect pace for so much emotion.
I was drawn into the lives of Julien, Hanni, Lea, Ettie and Victor...I wanted to know their story. I wanted them to be successful, I wanted them to stay alive. 
The abuse and deprivation and lack of common decency.
The glory and happiness when a loved one or friend received word by post, then, when it became to dangerous, by heron, that they were safe and alive.
The Resistance helped forged vistas, drivers license, ration cards, to help Jews survive and move to safe havens in Spain and Switzerland,  many hiding them at great risk to their own safety.
This book made me: cry... Laugh..Get pissed off.. Get happy..get angry...get excited. This book made me feel. I was completely taken by the emotional story of humanity, decency, self-respect and escape. And also the lack of humanity, decency and self-respect. 
This should be on everyones must read list...its fantastic...its important...especially in this time of out history when personal ambivalence and deceit are more important than people.
Thanks to netgalley, the publisher and author for sending this e-book ARC for review.
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This story by Alice Hoffman is WWII historical fiction peppered with a dash of magical realism. The story starts in Germany at the time of the war, but mostly takes place in France. The angel of death appears to several characters in the story who continually either fear or fight off its presence. A desperate mother seeks the creation of a golem - a creature thought to be only in Jewish folklore - a creature that could be invincible in it's mission to get Hanni's daughter out of Germany safely and protect her throughout the war. The rabbi's wife is incensed by this request, exclaiming, "All over the city daughters are being murdered." She is doubtful that such a creature is even possible to create and furthermore, that it may be a sin to even speak of it. The rabbi's wife turns Hanni away but Ettie, the rabbi's daughter, escorting out Hanni, decides that she will create the golem. She will take the payment. She will get herself and her sister out of Germany, even if her father decides the family will stay.
The story is beautifully written, with alternating points of view, and themes to ponder about humanity, desperation, faith, longing, pared with resistance and triumph over the enemy. 
I like to read WWII stories, because all fantastical elements aside, so I *never forget* that you can NEVER take your rights or your country's laws for granted! The Jewish communities during the war tried to tough it out when they experienced anti-semitism. But slowly and surely every right was taken away - the right to education - the right to do business - the right to exercise freedom of religion - until even their citizenship and right to life were taken away. These things slip away and must never be allowed to happen again. (But it has, and time and again, the world community allows it). 
The creature, which they name Ava, is a marvel to Ettie. Creation of an intelligent, devoted being, one who's sole purpose is to protect, it begins to evolve into something more humane than humanity. Ettie wonders how Ava can be without a soul. How can Ava continue to be so devoted, even after learning that the "fate" of golems are to serve and then to end at the hand of their maker? 
This story's overall message, in my opinion, among other things, is that strong-minded girls make for strong women, always fight for your survival at all costs, and that love conquers all, it just takes time.
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I had a hard time coming to terms with magical realism and the Holocaust coming together in a book. I almost didn’t finish it. However, it turned out beautifully. The story is sad, beautiful, appalling, and exciting, all wrapped in one. I’m glad I finished it. There really are some beautiful passages. I received a free digital copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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I wish to thank Simon & Schuster, and NetGalley for allowing me the pleasure of reading The World that We Knew, by Alice Hoffman.  She has always been one of my favorite authors.  That being said, I never thought that my enjoyment would ever surpass that which I felt reading The Dovekeepers, and her Marriage of Opposites.  I was wrong.  The World That We Knew blew me away.  The story and the characters were mesmerizing.  The story opened in Berlin, 1941. Hitler was successfully demolishing any sense of decency and morality for millions of people, particularly Jewish people. The story that evolved was very complex. It was about love, and loss, despair; and in the end, I even felt a sense of hopefulness for the human condition.. This  story taught me many things.  One of the most interesting was the concept of a Golem, a mystical Jewish creature.  It would ruin the story to go into too much detail, I only hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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There are no words to describe how much this book moved me, and how much I loved it. My heart hurts, those fucking nazi's. All I can say for now is Alice Hoffman, the Holocaust, a golem, and love. 'Nuff said.
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Rating (on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being excellent)
Quality of writing: 4
Pace: 4
Plot development: 4
Characters: 5
Enjoyability: 4
Ease of Reading: 5

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
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What a beautiful book! I have been a fan of Alice Hoffman for a long time, but O was skeptical of how much I would like magical realism mixed with historical fiction. I shouldn’t have been! The book was well researched and beautifully executed. There were a few too many characters to keep up with and the ending was a little confusing. Otherwise, I adored this read.
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“In Berlin evil came to them slowly and then all at once. The rules changed by the hour, the punishments grew worse, and the angel in the black coat wrote down so many names in his Book of Death there was no room for the newly departed.”

I’ve always been drawn to stories about the Holocaust, the dichotomy of the pure evil that led to so many being persecuted and murdered and the courage, love, and strength shown by those who defied the evil and struggled to survive and/or help others survive. As a long time fan of Alice Hoffman, I was excited to read about this time through her mystical lens. Thankfully, The World that we Knew lived up to my expectations. This is a powerful novel about a terrible time in our history and I highly recommend reading it. 

Thank you to Netgalley and to Simon & Schuster for giving me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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As always love Alice Hoffman books  Feels like another world at times  hard to put down now looking forward to her next masterpiece
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I love Alice Hoffman so much. I love all of her books, and the characters and stories that she creates are amazing. I have read a lot of her more recent work, and I can't wait to see what she does next.
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I received an ARC from NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Publishing for an honest review.

That being said, I’m truly between a 4 and 5 star rating. I really enjoyed Hoffman’s writing style, it’s very magical and it drew me in right from the beginning.

This truly is a story of a mother’s love and the many forms it can take.  Hanni is desperate to get her daughter, Lea, safely out of Berlin, realizing that the Jewish people will face great loss and hardship.  She turns to a local rabbi for help, but ends up meeting his fierce and brace daughter, Ettie, who creates a mystical Jewish creature called a Golem.  This Golem, Ava, has the sole responsibility of keeping Lea safe no matter the cost to herself or others.

I found Ava’s character to be quite remarkable and I haven’t read much about the Jewish religion, but the whole Golem topic is now very interesting to me.  

Oh and the heron... what a beautiful character!  I found myself so drawn to the bits that included descriptions and plot action that included that majestic bird!
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I have started to write this about 10 times and simply cannot express the blend of tragedy and joy you will find in this book. Hoffman has taken the horrifying historical context of the Holocaust and distilled it into the stories of four women. It‘s about survival, disbelief, love, courage, and humanity. It takes a writer as skilled as Hoffman to take these heart-wrenching stories and tell them with such grace and beauty. 

The story begins and ends with love - the undying, monumental love of a mother for her child. Hoffman’s trademark magical realism is here in the form of Ava, the golem created to keep Lea safe who performs her job to perfection. In the face of unimaginable horror, ordinary people find strength, courage, and yes, love. 

The best of the year for me.
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I think I'm going to have to just give up on Ms. Hoffman. I want to love her work. I should love her work. It is right up my alley. Magical realism set in some far off point in time. Win win. Except, when it's not. This is her take on WWII and the magical realism aspect of it just doesn't seem plausible. I know- it's "magical" realism. But, it just doesn't work here. Even if it is by magic! 

That her works also usually include a love story don't seem to do it for me either. The characters were flat. Each and every one of them. I understand the need to be stoic and as mere children they would be shell shocked during this horrible time. However, as characters, they just weren't well developed or likable. 30% in and was bored. I kept going along and it overall remained slow and not very captivating. 

Thank you NetGalley and publisher for the ARC in exchange for my honest opinions.
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