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. From New York Times-bestselling author Alice Hoffman.
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. Her settings, from Berlin to an isolated mountain village and a French convent, as well as every character are fully and vibrantly realized. Hoffman’s use of a folkloric aspect adds a distinctive and captivating perspective to an exceptionally voiced tale of deepest love and loss.
Ms. Hoffman’s remarkable achievement is her innate ability to balance large events of history with intimate personal stories. This includes unforgettable vignettes of many secondary characters ... The World That We Knew is constantly imbued with the terrifying atmosphere of impending doom. But it is also suffused with the everlasting hope of survival grounded in the profound desire for enduring love. Ms. Hoffman conjures an alluring novel that lingers long after it’s read.
Alice Hoffman is a brilliant weaver of magic and the mundane ... In her hands, a story we think we know, from a time we think we’ve extracted every possible detail, can become a soulful new voyage into the heart of the human condition ... a spellbinding tale of love, loss and what it means to endure ... In beautifully precise prose, Hoffman chronicles the experiences of these characters and those whose lives they touch along the way ... Though Nazi-occupied France is an endlessly compelling place to many readers, Hoffman never takes her historical setting for granted. Rather than leaving us to lean on what we think we know, she weaves a fully realized vision of the hidden parts of history, chronicling the stories of people who slipped through the cracks on their way to freedom and the emotional toll that freedom took ... Page by page, paragraph by paragraph, sentence 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.