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A World Elsewhere: An American Woman in Wartime Germany

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  189 ratings  ·  67 reviews
The extraordinary love story of an American blueblood and a German aristocrat—and a riveting tale of survival in wartime Germany

Sigrid MacRae never knew her father, until a trove of letters revealed not only him, but also the singular story of her parents’ intercontinental love affair. While visiting Paris
in 1927, her American mother, Aimée, raised in a wealthy Connectic
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 4th 2014 by Viking
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Sigrid MacRae Publishers labor over a book jacket - a huge project combining art, marketing, etc. Does it give things away? Maybe. Does it say too little about the…morePublishers labor over a book jacket - a huge project combining art, marketing, etc. Does it give things away? Maybe. Does it say too little about the rest of the story? Maybe, but this is decision from which the author is essentially removed.(less)
Jeanette Totally agree with Gundula. From my father's side I am entirely German and have relatives in 3 countries, most are American citizens from 30 years to…moreTotally agree with Gundula. From my father's side I am entirely German and have relatives in 3 countries, most are American citizens from 30 years to their lifetimes. It's a crux issue, that period and nationality for understanding the topic of this woman's life changes and adjustments. It has added to book sales, I'm sure.(less)
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Aug 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Many years ago I latched onto a quote I found by Sydney J. Harris: "When I hear somebody sigh, 'Life is hard,' I am always tempted to ask, 'Compared to what?'" The tribulations that Sigrid MacRae's mother Aimée endured would have brought most people to their knees--yet this incredible account of her fortitude and determination to build a life for her family shows us that perhaps human frailty is simply a personal choice.

I was lucky enough to win this book through Goodreads First Reads, although
Joel U
Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An incredible and unusual portrayal of life in Nazi Germany, but so much more yet. Sigrid MacRae, with absolute generosity, has opened the story and soul of her family to the world. The book is initially enjoyed for the quality of composition and depth of detail, but this subsides as the characters of this resilient family develop, and their tale becomes ever more harrowing and personal. Having previously read Erik Larson's "In the Garden of Beasts," portraying the experience of an American dipl ...more
Angela Ryser Bahling
Aug 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads, own
I am so glad I was the recipient of this wonderful book as a Goodreads First Read Giveaway! Sigrid MacRae has a beautiful, descriptive writing style that brings her family and their surroundings and circumstances vividly to life. To learn of World War II and Hilter's Nazi regime from the accounts of those who experienced it first-hand was enlightening. The courage, grace and dignity with which Aimee persevered to bring her children through harrowing times is inspiring. Read this book! I do not h ...more
Dec 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Whew, this woman's history is something. Originally, up to past mid-read I wanted to give it 5 stars, although there was substantial choppiness during the courtship, letter writing, marriage phase of the book that did not have smooth transitions and became difficult to follow. But then with the harrowing and tense last quarter, I began to have mixed feelings. Not only about the writing, either. I do believe it deserves a full 4 stars for honesty and the level for absolutely documented "eyes" and ...more
Sep 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"If I set out to understand my parents, I learned that we never completely understand what makes people who they are, and that who they are in fact changes." Page 276.
Sigrid MacRae had been given a beautiful "mother-of- pearl inlay" box which held letters from her father, Heinrich von Hoyningen-Huene. She did not open the box to read its contents until after her mother Aimee passed away. Reading the letters began a quest to understand her parents, as well as the Germany that had been her
Kelly W
Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm a voracious reader. This book is one of the best I've encountered in several years. I'm writing this review without spoilers to encourage people to read it. If it were fiction, I would have lost interest by thinking it could never have happened that way. Not only did it happen, it is meticulously documented. In this case, truth surely IS stranger than fiction.

The author's mother, a wealthy American heiress, travelled to Paris with a friend in 1927. She meets a German/Russian Baron who grew
Holly Cline
Jul 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads, history
I won this through first reads giveaways. It's interesting with a neat angle of storytelling, and we all know I'm a sucker for war stories. That being said, this was just ok. I'm glad I read it, and it would be a worthwhile read for anyone curious about the subject matter. However, there were multiple times throughout the narrative where the chronology got confusing. Or the people. Something about the structure lacked clarity, and this made it difficult for me to really grab on and take hold of ...more
Jul 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is really quite well done. Well written, and a very good tale to have reconstructed from fragmentary recollections and the occasional letter and diary.
Once or twice the sequence of events gets slightly confusing as some of the family history is retold later by aid of letters discussing conversations, and those conversations themselves are part of the family history. And I'd have welcomed a bit more - just one chapter-- on the central character's old age and demise. Some closure in the end
Jul 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-ii
A very well written book about a rare piece of history. The second half of the book had me on the edge of seat. It could have had a little more detail in some places, particularly the epilogue. I can see this as a movie, so that more people would be exposed to this part of history.
I received this book from Goodreads FirstReads. It's a keeper!
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Reading a book shouldn't feel like a chore and this one did. The story and characters never pulled me in enough to make me care about them enough to enjoy reading their story. I kept plugging along and eventually finished but it was a bit of a drudgery. There are holes in the timeline depending on what letters and correspondence the author (the title character's daughter) had and she filled those with accounts of war battles and events. This moved the book closer to a textbook feel, rather than ...more
Mimi Jones
Sep 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A World Elsewhere: An American Woman in Wartime Germany begins with the gift of a wooden box from mother to daughter. “Your father’s letters,” Sigrid MacRae’s 85-year-old mother tells her. Too moved for words, MacRae takes the locked box, but can’t bring herself to open it immediately. When she finally does, after her mother’s death, she meets the father she never knew....

Through intimate letters and diaries, we learn the story of two passionate lovers, the author’s parents, whose romance was do
Aug 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: firstreads
Disclaimer: I won this book in ARC form in a Goodreads giveaway. My review has not been shaped in any way due to receiving the book gratis.

This book took me a little time to get into as the writing style was not one I was used to. Once I got into it though, it really shook me.

A lot of history is given on both of the parents of Sigrid, including her father's childhood flight from Russia due to the revolution there. He was part of the nobility, which was not a good thing to be back then. Ever sin
Aug 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
The book is a narrative of the author's parents that she pieced together through letters her mother gave her. Sigrid discovered a very different snapshot of the parents she knew and put their choices and circumstances into a different perspective. It was also a different perspective for this reader. Sigrid paints a picture of her mother's lonely, motherless childhood, feeling exiled and apart. Although affluent, she lacked connection with family beyond an uncle that gave her much love and laught ...more
Aug 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read the pre-published copy of this book in two days!


The characters were awesome, especially given the fact that they are real people  I loved the wedding photo on the front cover, and referred to it continuously throughout the book to stay connected to the characters and who they really were. I loved the transformation Aimee goes through, and it seems that she lives 10 different lives within one. In some ways we all do, but she truly spans multiple worlds within one lifetime. The tran
Nicole Overmoyer
Sep 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Sigrid MacRae’s A World Elsewhere: An American Woman in Wartime Germany is the true story of her parents and her family during World War II. Her father was a German baron born in Russia and left penniless after the 1917 Russian Revolution. Her mother was wealthy American born to privilege in Connecticut. Both of parents had wandering spirits and they met in Paris in 1927. It wasn’t long before they were married.

As everyone should know, Germany wasn’t the best place in the world to be during the
Aug 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read! Being a history buff and one of my main periods of interest being the Second World War, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. A very well told story of a woman's struggle and survival through incredibly difficult times and the determination of the human spirit. Though there are countless similar stories, the narrative is such that you become one with the trials and tribulations that are experienced by everyone in the book. An instant favorite for me.
Elizabeth Wix
Dec 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Utterly fascinating and gripping.
Reviewed in the NY Times. How the world was turned upside down by World War Two...
This very vivid true story of an American woman with six small children in Germany is beautifully written.
I was also interested in what happened to the family in the aftermath of the war.
An excellent read. Highly recommended.
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This came in the mail the other day and surprised me, because I hadn't seen notification that I had won it in the giveaway! This looks like a fascinating story.
I thoroughly enjoyed this glimpse behind the scenes in WWII. From personal letters and in-depth research, Sigrid MacRae weaves a wonderful story of her parents' experiences. Her mother Aimee, a wealthy American girl exploring Europe, meets her father Heinrich, a refugee from the Bolshevik Revolution and an heir to a barony and an estate
Meg - A Bookish Affair
"A World Elsewhere" is the story of an American woman in wartime Germany. This book takes place during the second world war and a little bit before and after the war. What makes this book especially interesting is that it is written by the daughter of the woman that the stories surrounds. The author never knew her father, a German who fought on the side of Germany during World War II but she receives letters from her mother that had been sent between her parents during the war and before. From t ...more
Frances Johnson
Nov 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I read the book and then I read the Prologue. Then I read the Epilogue. Then I read the Endnotes. I just didn't want the book to end. The author, who is Aimee's youngest chid, never knew her handsome, educated Father, as he died on the Russian front during WWII. Aimee met Heinrich in Paris and they fell in love. He was an impoverished nobleman from the Baltic states whose family were refugees from Russia. Aimee was a pampered, financially secure daughter who longed for a warm ...more
Aug 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Denise by: 182
Shelves: first-reads
Full disclosure: I was chosen a First Reads winner, and received an advance uncorrected proof copy of A World Elsewhere: An American Woman in Wartime Germany by Sigrid MacRae, who was the daughter of
Aimée Ellis and Heinrich Alexis Nikolai von Hoyningen-Huene. They had met in 1927, on holiday in France, and the book is their story.

Shortly before her death, Sigrid’s mother, Aimée, gave her youngest daughter a beautiful inlaid Moroccan box of letters from wartime Germany. Not until about ten year
Aug 13, 2014 rated it liked it
I won this through first reads giveaways.

Some parts of this book were really great & some slogged along. Overall, the book is about Aimee, an American, and her Husband Heinrich, a German. They fall in love, get married and have 6 children. However, Heinrich dies in WW2, a Nazi soldier. Aimee is forced to fend for the family through difficult times.

Overall I thought the book was good, not great. At times, I thought the author was stretching for information when Aimee and Heinrich didn't have
Rachel Parrott
Sep 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
Sigrid MacRae set out to discover her father and the full story of who her parents were and ended up giving us a wonderful gift in “A World Elsewhere.” The story of her father starts in Tsarist Russian to exile in Germany. While her mother raised to live a predictable life of society wife and mother took a very different track. Their lives merged in Europe between the world wars. “A World Elsewhere” gives readers a look into life in Germany during and after WWII and what was lost.

As this volume
Jan Polep
Sep 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is no "Sound of Music". Sigrid MacRae's book, based on letters found after her mother's death, trace her American mother's life before/during/after WWII. Part history, part family memoir, it really takes off when Sigrid's mother, Aimee, marries a penniless baron and moves to Germany. Classification as an enemy alien, 6 kids, a dead husband, invading Russians, refugee living, and struggles to return to America, make for a great read all overlaid with easy-to-understand world history. The ext ...more
Don O'goodreader
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A World Elsewhere by Sigrid MacRae and the recently reviewed The Underground Girls of Kabul are both non-fiction about strong women in extraordinarily difficult situations. The current book is about the author's mother Aimee living in Germany during World War II.

We need more history books that are not about politicians and generals, both that chronicle the lives of families, parents, and children. This is an excellent addition to the canon.

For more see:

I won a copy of this
Sep 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
I received a free copy of this book as part of the Goodreads Giveaway program, and I can honestly say that it is excellent. It's rare that you get to see inside the "enemy" mind; I've never read a book written by or about a rank-and-file German soldier from World War II before. A World Elsewhere is a unique historical piece giving readers a rare look at what was happening on the "other side" to a standard citizen in Germany during this time, but it is also a period piece about an upperclass Amer ...more
Aug 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
I received this book as a First Reads winner. I found it challenging, and I vacillated between three and four stars. I finally rounded up to four, as I believe the shortcomings to be on the part of the reader (me) and not the author.

The military history and politics was slow going for me, and I found myself skimming only to lose an important thread and have to go back and reread. Could it have been more gripping? Yes, but it is, after all, a memoir and not a novel. I did feel that it was written
Catherine Stickann
“A World Elsewhere” is an essential addition to any library about WWII Germany. The story of the author’s parents- her mother an American – her father a German living in Germany at the outbreak of the war. It is an intimate look at life within the Reich for the everyday, country people. A new look at behind the lines Germany. This book, with its passion and suspense makes a great read. Not to be missed by those who love history.
World Literature Today
"With the help of her parents’ letters, Sigrid MacRae’s A World Elsewhere has shown us that there are other stories that need to be told if we are ever to fully understand the Holocaust." - Charlie Canning, Georgetown, Maine

This book was reviewed in the March 2015 issue of World Literature Today. Read the full review by visiting our website:
The story of an American woman living and raising a family in Germany was amazing. So many new perspectives. This woman hit problem after problem, and kept going. The story, written by her daughter after being gifted a box bearing her parent's letters, was moving, thought-provoking, and so interesting.
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Barnard Brown Bag...: Sigrid's book, A World Elsewhere 16 10 Nov 19, 2016 10:03AM  
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