The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman is an historical fiction novel with a bit of magical realism thrown in.
In 1941, the world is about to change and three woman will do whatever it takes to save the ones they love.
In Berlin, a Jewish woman is determined to save her twelve-year-old daughter from the Nazi’s increasing brutality. Willing to do anything, she goes to her local rabbi, but it is his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope in the form of a mystical creature called a golem. From clay she brings to life Ava, whose only mission is to protect Lea and bring her out of the war alive.
Lea and Ava go to Paris where Lea meets Julian, her soulmate. But circumstance soon separates them and their stories diverge. Meanwhile, Ettie is mourning and hiding until she can find her way into the French Resistance.
Paths will cross and life will go on… until it doesn’t.
Hoffman is known for throwing the strange and extraordinary into her novels. There is just a little bit of magic or just plain weirdness that makes her books what they are. In the case of The World That We Knew we get glimpses of the Angel of Death and Jewish Golems, with Paris WWII as our setting.
One of the things I liked most about this book was the focus on the children and how they lived, died and grew throughout the war. Yes, the relationships each of the women forged and how their paths overlapped was interesting and probably the highlight of the book as a whole, but there was something about the children that got to me. Even the small glimpses of the “half starved twins” or the young boy who was drawing a picture for his parents, these were heart warming and breaking all at the same time.
Overall, I thought this book was great. There were parts that surprised me and I honestly wasn’t sure how it would end, until it did. This is going to make a really great book club book and I am hoping to get my adult club to discuss it next month.
This one gets 4.5-5 stars from me.
That’s all for now!