Review: The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman

Synopsis: 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. 

As we slip further and further into autumn, I slip further and further into my bed in the mornings. Its getting harder and harder to wake up 😦 but at least I get to read some really good books while I’m in bed! As usual, thank you Simon & Schuster for the ARC, don’t know what I’d do without your support!

Now, I got this ARC as an e-book, which I’m normally not good with. It takes me longer to read, my eyes hurt, I dont like look at a phone that long, I get distracted, you name it. But this book. Man oh man. I could not put my phone down, and finished this book in a couple days. I have always liked Alice Hoffman. Her book The Dovekeepers was one of the first novels I ever read, and really made a lasting impression on me. I read A Marriage of Opposites, and while I liked it, I never loved it. So I figured I’d give this one a go and see what I thought. And (spoiler alert) I was literally blown away.

Some of my favourite quotes include:
“This was the end, this was the beginning, and they had no time for doubt”
“If you are loved, you never lose the person who loved you. You carry them with you all your life”
“If you could love someone, you possessed a soul”

This book was overflowing with love and tragedy and compassion and anger and I felt every single emotion in those words. Hoffman has such an incredible ability to convey such a wide range of emotion in her writing, and this was what I was expecting. Especially since this novel deals with such an inherently tragic and terrible time period.

Every character in this book, whether they were minor characters who the main people met along the way, or Ettie, Lea, Julien or Ava themselves, they were fully fleshed out people who had a distinct tone. There was never any short cuts taken with anyone, and I really appreciated this. For example, a couple that Julien runs into at one point is kind at first but gets distant very soon. Why? Because their son was around Julien’s age and looked similar to him, and had died the previous year. But they still helped him. Little details like this make the book sparkle and immerse you even more into the world.

Another aspect of the book that I loved was the amount of everyday magic in the characters. Ava herself is magic, brought to life through the determination of three women who want to survive the trials they are facing. Her travel is full of magic, but it’s not just her. Ettie and Lea see the angel of death, and must fight it’s constant presence in their lives. The plot itself is engaging, mainly because there is so much going on, and there are also a lot of different characters that we follow. Their interactions, which can sometimes be few or far between, are really special moments that help you understand just how important connections are to those we love.

Overall, I really couldn’t say that I didn’t enjoy anything about this book. 5/5! I look forward to reading more of Hoffman’s work!
See you soon ducks!

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