It is 1941 in Berlin, and Hanni, a widow, desperately wants her only child, Lea, to flee the city and the Nazi’s. Her last hope is to have the rabbi’s daughter produce a golem, a statue made of clay that magically comes to life. The golem will protect Lea and get her safely to Paris where, hopefully, Hanni’s cousins will take them in. The cousins, mathematician Andre Levi, his wife and two sons allow Lea and the golem to stay temporarily. The World That We Knew follows these characters and several others as they travel and hide throughout France for the next three years.
If you are not a fan of Alice Hoffman, especially when her novels have a strong sense of magic, The World That We Knew is going to be a disappointment. On the other hand, if you’re willing to suspend belief and learn about golems and the angel of death, you will find The World That We Knew full of delightful characters woven into a tense plot.