The World That We Knew

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An instant New York Times and Indiebound bestseller

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In Berlin in 1941 during humanity’s darkest hour, three unforgettable young women must act with courage and love to survive, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Dovekeepers and The Marriage of Opposites Alice Hoffman.

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.

Message From Alice To Her Readers

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Listen to an excerpt from the audiobook below, read by Judith Light.



"Hoffman the storyteller continues to dazzle."Mary Pols, The New York Times

“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 spellbinding portrait of what it means to be human in an inhuman world." KIRKUS 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)

"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 

"Remembering someone who was once loved is the electric current that courses through The World That We Knew. But remembering those whom we may not have loved, or even truly known, may be humanity’s chief kindness to the past. And as Hoffman implies, this may also be our chief guarantor of the future."CJN 

"Powerful and moving, Hoffman's novel winds between the streets of Paris and lonely country roads, swinging between unimaginable fear and torture and small, quiet acts of courageous kindness."SHELF AWARENESS

"I’ve read many Holocaust stories, but The World That We Knew is by far the best work of historical fiction I have encountered on this topic. Words fail to describe its depth, beauty, darkness, and truth – a masterful creation!"Viviane Crystal, HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY

“Page by page, paragraph by paragraph, sen­tence 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.”—Matthew Jackson, BOOKPAGE.COM

"The World That We Knew made my heart ache and also gave me hope--it reminded me of the good that exists even when it seems that evil is everywhere and overwhelming."Seira Wilson, THE AMAZON BOOK REVIEW 

"The World That We Knew" is constantly imbued with the terrifying atmosphere of impending doom. But it is also suffused with the everlasting hope of survival grounded in the profound desire for enduring love." Robert Allen Papinchak, PITTSBURG POST GAZETTE 

"Hoffman's fiction has long been informed by fairy tales, and "The World That We Knew" is a dark and lovely fable. Into the woods these refugees go, hoping to survive. After all, this is the promise of extracted by those left behind: "Live. Never forget. Tell your story." Nancy Pate, STAR TRIBUNE

"...the emotional power of Hoffman’s storytelling is rarely in doubt." —DAILY MAIL UK

"This fable of love and sacrifice blends magic realism with brutal history to devastating effect… It remains a spellbinding testament to resilience in the face of evil."—MAIL ON SUNDAY UK

"With the dream-like feel of a fairy tale, this is the story of a young Jewish girl who is sent away from Berlin during the Second World War. I’m not usually a fan of magical realism, but this classic fairy tale of good versus evil is wonderful. The storytelling is lush and vivid, and it stayed with me for a long time."—GOOD HOUSEKEEPING UK

"A magical read from a wonderful writer."—MY WEEKLY UK

Received the 2020 Dayton Peace Prize for Fiction and the 2019 National Jewish Book Club Award

Winner of the 2019 Julia Ward Howe Prize

1 of 3 novels named by Nancy Harris for Wicked Local Dighton that shows compassion during chaos

Named as a must-read book in Fall 2019 by: AmazonBookpage, Book Riot, CBCBooks, Christian Science MonitorEntertainment Weekly, Good Housekeeping, InstyleThe Mail on Sunday, MPR News, My Weekly, Oprah MagazineParade MagazineStar Tribune, and The Sunday Times

Named one of the Top 20 Best Books of 2019 by Amazon and featured on CNN Underscored