EXCERPT: Her father was a great rabbi, but she was the one who had a true talent. For the thousandth time she wished she were a boy. She had no interest in marriage or babies, only in the world of scholars, from which she was prohibited. She could taste the bitter dirt as they finished digging, and she nearly choked on it. It occurred to her that once she broke the rules of her family and her faith, there would be no going back. But on this morning, all she knew was that she wanted to live.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: In 1941, during humanity’s darkest hour, three unforgettable young women must act with courage and love to survive, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Dovekeepers and The Marriage of Opposites Alice Hoffman.
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.
MY THOUGHTS: ‘Once upon a time something happened that you never could have imagined, a spell was broken, a girl was saved, a rose grew out of a tooth buried deep in the ground, love was everywhere, and people who had been taken away continued to walk with you, in dreams and in the waking world.’
This is a book that can’t be buttonholed into one or even two categories. Historical, magical, fantasy, love, family drama doesn’t even begin to describe The World That We Knew.
The author’s introduction is one of the most moving that I have read. Please don’t skip it. It tells how this book was born. And the relationship between fairytales and real life. If you don’t think there is one, then you really do need to read it.
The magical aspects of Hoffman’s writing does nothing to dilute the horrors of the Holocaust; in fact, if anything, it heightens the inhumanity of man against man. She writes beautifully and lyrically about one of the darkest periods in the history of man, holding nothing back, but always there is hope that shines like a beacon.
I was a history student, and WWII was one of my pet subjects, but I have learned more from Hoffman’s writing than I ever did in school. It is far easier to relate to and has far greater significance when it is on a more personal level.
I finished The World That We Knew last night and I have written a dozen reviews in my head during the day, all of which were far more eloquent and reflective than this. I had highlighted dozens of passages in an effort to capture the essence of this book. But after reading and rereading them, I stayed with the first; the one that says ‘all she knew was that she wanted to live.’ There is no greater desire in life than to live and to keep your loved ones safe. ‘If you are loved, you never lose the person who loved you. You carry them with you all your life.’ And the reverse is true, that if you love someone, you can never lose that person. You carry them with you all your life. And that, to me, is the essence of The World That We Knew; the magic of love.
THE AUTHOR: Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The World That We Knew, The Rules of Magic, The Marriage of Opposites, Practical Magic, The Red Garden, the Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on Earth, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, and The Dovekeepers. Her most recent novel is The World That We Knew. She lives near Boston.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The World That We Knew for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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