When the World Was Young Summary and Reviews

When the World Was Young

by Elizabeth Gaffney

When the World Was Young by Elizabeth Gaffney X
When the World Was Young by Elizabeth Gaffney
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' rating:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published in USA  Aug 2014
    320 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

Wally Baker is no ordinary girl. Living in her grandparents' Brooklyn Heights brownstone, she doesn't like dresses, needlepoint, or manners. Her love of Wonder Woman comics and ants makes her feel like a misfit - especially in the shadow of her dazzling but unstable mother, Stella.

Acclaimed author Elizabeth Gaffney's irresistible novel captures postwar Brooklyn through Wally's eyes, opening on V-J day, as she grows up with the rest of America. Reeling from her own unexpected wartime tragedy and navigating an increasingly fraught landscape, Wally is forced to confront painful truths about the world - its sorrows, its prejudices, its conflicts, its limitations. But Wally also finds hope and strength in the unlikeliest places.

With an unforgettable cast of characters, including the increasingly distant and distracted Stella; Loretta, the family's black maid and Wally's second mother; Ham, Loretta's son, who shares Wally's enthusiasm for ants and exploration; Rudy, Wally's father, a naval officer, away serving in the Pacific; and Mr. Niederman, the family's boarder, who never seems to answer Wally's questions - and who she suspects may have something to hide - Elizabeth Gaffney crafts an immersive, beautifully realized novel about the truths that divide and the love that keeps us together.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Affecting... Themes of race, identity, and finding one's personal destiny within societal expectations are all explored in this layered, delicate novel." -Publishers Weekly

"...a charming and incisive tale about a brainy girl's metamorphosis into a heroically forthright woman, in which Gaffney asks provocative questions about parenthood, gender and racial prejudice, sexual magnetism, painful sacrifices and secrets, and profound heartbreak, all exacerbated by war." - Booklist

"This compelling family drama features an intriguing cast of characters who are well drawn and realistic, while also being emblematic of their time. Gaffney's writing is graceful and leisurely paced, flavored with nostalgia." - Library Journal

"A smart coming-of-age tale that upends a raft of Greatest Generation cliches." - Kirkus

"In this beautifully written novel - an honest and irresistible ride through post–World War II America in all its glory and its shame - Elizabeth Gaffney explores mothers and daughters, upstairs and downstairs, loveless marriages and passionate affairs, without ever losing her story or the fabulous characters that inhabit it." - B. A. Shapiro, New York Times bestselling author of The Art Forger

"When the World Was Young is an enormous achievement - fun, sad, beautiful, perhaps the best book about Brooklyn in the war years since the war years. " - Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng and Half a Life

"Through Wally and her glamorous doctor mother, Gaffney movingly explores wartime passions, the emotional sacrifices made by strong women on the home front, and the wounding power of secrets." - Sheri Holman, author of The Dress Lodger

"Elizabeth Gaffney is in perfect control of her material, and captures all the complications of what we might like to remember as an uncomplicated time." - Jonathan Dee, author of A Thousand Pardons and The Privileges

"At the heart of the quick-paced narrative is young Wally Baker, and her voice and her manner, her courage and her life-affirming decision during a time of crisis, will long be remembered, as indeed this richly textured novel will be remembered." - Nicholas Rinaldi, author of Between Two Rivers

"Wally Baker, the protagonist of Elizabeth Gaffney's fine historical novel, is an undeniable, irrepressible, and thoroughly unforgettable heroine for any century." - Helen Schulman, author of This Beautiful Life

This information about When the World Was Young shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Elizabeth Gaffney Author Biography

© Daphne Klein

Elizabeth Gaffney is a native of Brooklyn, NY. She graduated with honors from Vassar College and holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Brooklyn College; she also studied philosophy and German at Ludwig-Maximillian University in Munich.

Her first novel, Metropolis, a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, was published in 2005. Her second novel, When the World Was Young, was published in 2014. Her stories have appeared in many magazines, and she has translated four books from German.

Gaffney has been a resident artist at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony and the Blue Mountain Center. She also teaches fiction and serves as the editor at large of the literary magazine A Public Space.

She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the neurologist Alex Boro, and their daughters.

... Full Biography
Author Interview
Link to Elizabeth Gaffney's Website

Other books by Elizabeth Gaffney at BookBrowse
  • Metropolis jacket
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more historical fiction...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Blue Sky Kingdom
    Blue Sky Kingdom
    by Bruce Kirkby
    Who hasn't dreamed of escaping all of the trappings of today's modern life and finding a secluded, ...
  • Book Jacket: My Heart Underwater
    My Heart Underwater
    by Laurel Fantauzzo
    Corazon — Cory — Tagubio is a Filipina-American teenager living with her family in ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Sun
    Black Sun
    by Rebecca Roanhorse
    Reading the first book in a series is always difficult because readers know that, by definition, it ...
  • Book Jacket: Somewhere in the Unknown World
    Somewhere in the Unknown World
    by Kao Kalia Yang
    Resettled refugees are mostly invisible. Their needs are rarely publicized and their struggles are ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Smallest Lights in the Universe
    by Sara Seager

    A luminous memoir by an MIT astrophysicist who must reinvent herself in the wake of tragedy.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Exiles
by Christina Baker Kline

The author of Orphan Train returns with an ambitious, emotionally resonant historical novel.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win This Book!
Win Jack

Return to Gilead with Jack, the instant New York Times bestseller

Enter to win Marilynne Robinson's latest novel in her classic series.

Enter


Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I G I O Ear A O T O

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.