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The World That We Knew: A Novel Hardcover – September 24, 2019

4.6 out of 5 stars 664 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of September 2019: Alice Hoffman's novel is a beautiful union of history and myth in a world gone wrong. As The World That We Knew begins in Berlin in the spring of 1941, Hanni Kohn is left with no choice but to get her 12-year-old daughter, Lea, out of Germany if she has any hope of saving her life. Hanni will do anything to for Lea, even something as dangerous as soliciting the creation of a mystical golem to act as her protector. Ettie is a rabbi's daughter, wise beyond her years, and when Hanni comes to her home pleading for help, Ettie takes matters into her own hands. Ettie, Lea, and the golem they name Ava make their way to Paris, Ava and Lea following one path and Ettie another. Hoffman’s tale of these three lives is one of love and sacrifice, kindness and cruelty, and throughout it all the Angel of Death fills book after book with the names of those murdered by the Nazis. The World That We Knew is exquisite and hopeful, a reminder that even when life as we know it has disappeared, and evil seems to have inexplicably won the upper hand, love will always find a way. --Seira Wilson, Amazon Book Review

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“Oh, what a book this is! Hoffman’s exploration of the world of good and evil, and the constant contest between them, is unflinching; and the humanity she brings to us—it is a glorious experience. The book builds and builds, as she weaves together, seamlessly, the stories of people in the most desperate of circumstances—and then it delivers with a tremendous punch. It opens up the world, the universe, in a way that it absolutely unique. By the end you may be weeping.”—ELIZABETH STROUT, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge

“Alice Hoffman’s new novel will break your heart, and then stitch it back together piece by piece.  It’s about love and loss, about history and the world today, about what happens when man goes against the laws of nature for good and for evil.  It’s my new favorite Hoffman book—and if you know how much I adore her writing, that’s truly saying something.”—JODI PICOULT, New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things and A Spark of Light

“[A] hymn to the power of resistance, perseverance and enduring love in dark times…gravely beautiful…Hoffman the storyteller continues to dazzle.”NEW YORK TIMES 

"Every page of The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman is a delicious shock. Even the most wrenching moments are rendered with delicacy and beauty. And, c'mon, it's about a 12-year-old trying to escape the Nazis with the help of a golem. How do you not love that?" — Joe Hill, New York Times bestselling author of Stange Hill and The Fireman 

"A spellbinding portrait of what it means to be human in an inhuman world."KIRKUS REVIEWS (STARRED REVIEW) 

“An exceptionally voiced tale of deepest love and loss…one of [Hoffman’s] finest. 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.”BOOKLIST (STARRED REVIEW)

“One of America’s most brilliant novelists since her debut, Property Of, Hoffman uses her signature element of magical realism to tackle an intolerably painful chapter in history. Readers know going in that their hearts will be broken, but they will be unable to let go until the last page.”LIBRARY JOURNAL (STARRED REVIEW)

"Page by page, paragraph by paragraph, sen- tence 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.”BOOKPAGE (STARRED REVIEW)

"Set in Nazi-occupied France between 1941 and 1944, Hoffman’s latest (after The Rules of Magic) is a bittersweet parable about the costs of survival and the behaviors that define humanity."PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

"If you haven’t already fallen under the spell of US author Alice Hoffman and her seductive brand of magical realism, then immerse yourself in her extraordinary new novel, a heartbreaking and utterly enthralling wartime odyssey which opens up a unique perspective on humanity and inhumanity amidst the horrors of the Holocaust....Hoffman’s ingenious alchemy blends ancient Jewish folklore, spine-tingling supernatural, and gut-wrenching reality in an exquisite formula that shocks, enchants, and makes us weep."
— Lancashire Post

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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5
664 customer ratings
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Reviewed in the United States on September 28, 2019
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Top international reviews

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4.0 out of 5 stars Magic Realism in WW2
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 11, 2019
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Vanessa Harbour
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 5, 2020
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miss kayswan
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 19, 2020
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Girl Well Read
4.0 out of 5 stars Girl Well Read's Review of The World That We Knew
Reviewed in Canada on October 1, 2019
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Dawn B Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart wrenching
Reviewed in Canada on December 13, 2019
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Sydney1981
5.0 out of 5 stars Holocaust novel like no other
Reviewed in Australia on April 16, 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars A magical mix of history and fiction
Reviewed in Canada on January 15, 2020
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Ruth Ilyse
1.0 out of 5 stars Not into the supernatural
Reviewed in Canada on February 17, 2020
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2.0 out of 5 stars My opinion
Reviewed in Canada on November 17, 2019
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Colin Christie
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing
Reviewed in Canada on November 10, 2019
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