In Berlin in 1941, Hanni realises that the world as she knows it is coming to an end. With her mother bed ridden, she chooses to stay by her side and face the end, but is determined to get her 12 year old daughter out before the Nazi’s get her. Knowing she can’t send her daughter out of the country alone, she manages to convince the daughter of a rabbi to help her. Ettie knows the secret of how to make a golem, a creature made of clay that looks human and can protect the young girl, Lea.
Ava is created, and she leaves with Lea on the same night that Ettie escapes with her younger sister. Hoping to find safety, the women will lose everything, find new things to live and die for, and leave behind the world that they knew.
I can’t really express how much it meant to me to be given this book for review, because Alice Hoffman is one of my favourite authors and I have read all of her books, many of which I have reviewed here. She has a way of finding the fairytale in the everyday, and the everyday in the fairytale, and creating stories rich in meaning and often are written in the magic realism genre. I really find her books beautiful and moving. So I can’t tell you how excited I was to get my hands on this ARC.
There’s something genuine, heartfelt and lyrical about the way that Hoffman writes, and she understands that the stories that we tell are important. When we sit on the laps of our elders and they tell us fairytales, we’re learning about the world and how to move through it, how to deal with wolves and witches, and that there is always hope and magic. I don’t think there are as many writers that manage to see magic and beauty in the world as there used to be, perhaps because of the kind of world we feel we’re living in now. But it’s something that still resonates with me.
So, it was that way she has of making me feel and drawing me in that really got under my skin when I was reading this book. Unlike a lot of her other books, though, this was a really hard read. I normally read her books almost in one sitting, but here, I had to keep putting it down because she is writing in a very real way about an incredibly sad time in history. I really loved this book and it also broke my heart.
The things that I love about Alice Hoffman were all here in this book, so if you’ve read something of hers and loved it, I think that you will really like this book too. I know that not everyone loves magic realism the way that I do, but I think it’s a really lovely genre and one that’s rarely done so well as Hoffman does it. I also think that while it is unrelentingly sad, it’s also a very beautiful story, and it’s never mawkish or preachy, and it’s always original and intriguing. I think it’s a beautiful story and I loved the characters, so if you think it sounds interesting, I highly recommend that you get yourself a copy.
Thank you, Simon & Schuster Canada for sending me the ARC for this book. It really means a lot to me as a reviewer and as a fan of the author. As always, all opinions are my own, honest thoughts.
The World That We Knew is out September 24th.