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
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2014
    320 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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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.

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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.

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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
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