The World That We Knew: A Novel (Hardcover)
Title: The World That We Knew
Comments: Wow, I did NOT expect this book to be so, so… fantastic. I have not read Ms Hoffman’s prior works and did not know what to expect. I have read a lot of WW2 books this year, many about the Holocaust. Maybe all the anniversaries of disasters and war markers have been a great impetus to push this along by strides.
Me… the jotter here? I confess, I love science fiction, preferably the “hard” kind. After that, I relish historical fiction, as there are always great stories there, even pieces written as modern tales in their time, such as Edith Wharton’s books. I love family stories and heart-warmers too. But mostly I love dreams. I revere Philip K. Dick. He is known to have said for us readers to “suspend disbelief”. Dreams and nightmares are welcome in books I read, and I easily suspend disbelief, and just “go there”.
The World That We Knew starts off as Historical Fiction (Berlin, 1941), as Jewish citizens, homeowners, children, “new” criminals and other characters quickly engage us within their horrific settings, the characters slowly coming ‘round to a center (of sorts) at the end. The story allowed me to maybe see how such desperate characters in this terrible nightmare got themselves through it. Yes, I have read The Tin Drum and other tales. This is a little off that bio-genre but still as strong. The main characters were mostly women in all stages of despair and dodging traps. They generally press on, using cunning and tricks to live and keep moving. We all tell ourselves WE would do that, right? You will not be able to put this book away, BUT, you will occasionally have to “suspend disbelief.” So, breathe, close your eyes, and then keep reading.
Ms. Hoffman has proven, apparently very well, that her unique imagination is appreciated by millions of readers. But I didn’t know that, and I was so thrilled to partake in her writing style, her story, and what I could call “dreams”. Don’t miss this book.— From Book Club Picks
— From Alice Hoffman Book Discussion
October 2019 Indie Next List
“Alice Hoffman, author of numerous novels—The Dovekeepers, The Marriage of Opposites, and The Museum of Extraordinary Things, among others—does her magic again with The World That We Knew. This is a story of great love and loss, a story of strong characters who, with heartfelt courage, save others by risking their own lives. The reader is taken on a journey of the world that once was—of memories of a past tainted by hatred during WWII. Alice Hoffman’s writing is passionate, poetic, and profound. This novel captivated me from the start and left me spellbound. A must-read!”
— Mollie Loughlin, The Book Vine, Cherokee, IA
This instant New York Times bestseller and longlist recipient for the 2020 Andrew Carnegie Medal takes place in 1941, during humanity’s darkest hour, and follows three unforgettable young women who must act with courage and love to survive.
“[A] hymn to the power of resistance, perseverance, and enduring love in dark times…gravely beautiful…Hoffman the storyteller continues to dazzle.” —THE NEW YORK TIMES
“Oh, what a book this is! Hoffman’s exploration of the world of good and evil, and the constant contest between them, is unflinching; and the humanity she brings to us—it is a glorious experience.” —ELIZABETH STROUT, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge
“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.
About the Author
Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including Magic Lessons, The World That We Knew, Practical Magic, The Rules of Magic, the Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on Earth, The Red Garden, The Dovekeepers, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, The Marriage of Opposites, and Faithful. She lives near Boston.
Winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the National Jewish Book Award for Book Club
“Oh, what a book this is! Hoffman’s exploration of the world of good and evil, and the constant contest between them, is unflinching; and the humanity she brings to us—it is a glorious experience. The book builds and builds, as she weaves together, seamlessly, the stories of people in the most desperate of circumstances—and then it delivers with a tremendous punch. It opens up the world, the universe, in a way that it absolutely unique. By the end you may be weeping.”—ELIZABETH STROUT, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge
“Alice Hoffman’s new novel will break your heart, and then stitch it back together piece by piece. It’s about love and loss, about history and the world today, about what happens when man goes against the laws of nature for good and for evil. It’s my new favorite Hoffman book—and if you know how much I adore her writing, that’s truly saying something.”—JODI PICOULT, New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things and A Spark of Light
“[A] hymn to the power of resistance, perseverance and enduring love in dark times…gravely beautiful…Hoffman the storyteller continues to dazzle.”—NEW YORK TIMES
"Every page of The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman is a delicious shock. Even the most wrenching moments are rendered with delicacy and beauty. And, c'mon, it's about a 12-year-old trying to escape the Nazis with the help of a golem. How do you not love that?" — Joe Hill, New York Times bestselling author of Stange Hill and The Fireman
"A spellbinding portrait of what it means to be human in an inhuman world."—KIRKUS REVIEWS (STARRED REVIEW)
“An exceptionally voiced tale of deepest love and loss…one of [Hoffman’s] finest. WWII fiction has glutted the market, but Hoffman’s unique brand of magical realism and the beautiful, tender yet devastating way she explores her subject make this a standout.”—BOOKLIST (STARRED REVIEW)
“One of America’s most brilliant novelists since her debut, Property Of, Hoffman uses her signature element of magical realism to tackle an intolerably painful chapter in history. Readers know going in that their hearts will be broken, but they will be unable to let go until the last page.”—LIBRARY JOURNAL (STARRED REVIEW)
"Page by page, paragraph by paragraph, sen- tence by sentence, The World That We Knew presents a breathtaking, deeply emotional odyssey through the shadows of a dimming world while never failing to convince us that there is light somewhere at the end of it all. This book feels destined to become a high point in an already stellar career.”—BOOKPAGE (STARRED REVIEW)
"Set in Nazi-occupied France between 1941 and 1944, Hoffman’s latest (after The Rules of Magic) is a bittersweet parable about the costs of survival and the behaviors that define humanity."—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"If you haven’t already fallen under the spell of US author Alice Hoffman and her seductive brand of magical realism, then immerse yourself in her extraordinary new novel, a heartbreaking and utterly enthralling wartime odyssey which opens up a unique perspective on humanity and inhumanity amidst the horrors of the Holocaust....Hoffman’s ingenious alchemy blends ancient Jewish folklore, spine-tingling supernatural, and gut-wrenching reality in an exquisite formula that shocks, enchants, and makes us weep."
— Lancashire Post