I reviewed The Dovekeepers which was extraordinary. The World That We Knew is also extraordinary, but it’s well beyond my poor powers to review.
It’s a breath of fresh air at a time when for reasons I cannot comprehend anti-Semitism is rearing its polluted self around the world along with the equally bankrupt white supremacists. And then, my generation was born in the shadow of World War II and that’s had a life-long effect on us.
Among other things, the sins of the world–from Nazi Germany to the U.S. and other countries who wouldn’t accept Jewish refugees–are still strongly on my mind. So, this novel stops the world of today and takes me back into the horrors suffered by the Jews in Germany, France and elsewhere. Hoffman’s novel is tantamount to an immersion in a history we cannot bear.
So, I’m too biased about the subject matter to speak objectively about The World That We Knew. I think it is perfect, complete (as is typical of Hoffman in The Dovekeepers) with a blend of brutal facts, magical realism, and characters we care too much about before they are gone. There was love here, too, in spite of the atrocities surrounding the characters.
Perhaps that love was enough, a brief flash of divine light above misbegotten times, places, and unspeakble crimes.