Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Julie's Review: The World We Knew

Author: Alice Hoffman
Series: None
Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 384
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Folklore
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Heartbreaking and hopeful
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab

Summary: 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.

Review: You know how when you finish a book it kind of leaves you a bit gutted and like you don't know if you can really close it? Yes, well than The World We Knew is for you because that is exactly how I felt. I have ready many a WWII novel but I don't believe I've read one that incorporated the Jewish Resistance in France and that factors in heavily to Ms. Hoffman's new novel.

In face of the horror that the Nazi's bring upon Berlin, Lea's mom Hanni needs to divise a plan to keep her young daughter, Lea safe. Hanni knows she doesn't have much time, so she seeks out a Rabbi to great a mystical creature, a golem, to protect her daughter as she sends her away to France for safety. There's a hitch though like anything you are creating in the likeness of something, it can only be destroyed by it's creator and this puts the creator at great risk of being destroyed themselves. Ettie is the Rabbi's daughter who agrees to create the golem for Hanni but at the expense of getting her and her sister papers for travel as well. This simple act bonds Lea, Ettie and Ava (the golem) together until they should all perish.

As Ava, Ettie and Lea begin their journey out of Germany and into France, they are separated and go their own ways to try to survive. Ettie is on a journey of revenge and solitary existence until she finds herself part of a bigger group that is trying to make a difference. Lea and Ava lead a relatively normal life until the Nazi's come to their part of France and they have to escape to a variety of locations just to stay alive. Along their way to survive they meet people who will change their perspective on how they look at the world and how they learn to search for the light even in the darkness.

Ms. Hoffman's writing is some of the best words on paper I have had the privledge of reading and in this one, she's at the top of her game. She doesn't hold back punches with the horror and brutality of the time period but yet with Ava and others she shines a light into that brutality. Ettie is the one who sacrifices for what she believes in and also for vengence of a loved one. Ava is the one who is the epitome of hope and light as she fiercely protects Lea but also figures out who she is and what it is she really wants to become.

This is one that you will want to put on the top of your book pile(s) immediately. It's is not to be missed.


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