The World That We Knew – A stunning journey of loss and resistance
“Alice Hoffman’s new novel will break your heart, and then stitch it back together piece by piece. It’s my new favorite Hoffman book.” —JODI PICOULT, New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things and A Spark of Light
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.
What does it mean to lose your mother? How much can one person sacrifice for love? In a world where evil can be found at every turn, we meet remarkable characters that take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, the fantastical and the mortal, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never-ending.
Duffy’s thoughts on The World That We Knew
I’ve only read one other Alice Hoffman book, and that was The Marriage Of Opposites, and although received positive reviews, I just couldn’t get a handle on it and sadly didn’t finish. When I received The World That We Knew, I was a little apprehensive based on my previous Hoffman experience, and the synopsis threw me a bit. How can such a sensitive topic as the genocide of millions of Jews in WWII have a fantasy element? How could that possibly work?
Well, it does.
The World That We Knew is a spellbinding read focussing primarily on three women and their will to not only survive, but to resist against the evils that have befallen them. The supporting cast of characters are wonderfully written and create a perfect foil for the three main characters, Ava, Leah and Ettie as we follow them through one of humanity’s darkest hours as they navigate not only survival, but faith, love and empathy.
I will warn you, this is not an easy read at times. The horrors of Germany during WWII are laid bare, giving not only an intricate portrayal of personal stories, but also a wider lens with Hoffman delivering incredible detail about resistance groups, and tragic events which I hadn’t learned in history class.
The end will leave you with a book hangover. Hoffman will drag you out of a world full of death and despair and leave you touched by love, redemption and hope.
A very surprising 5star read for me