This is a little miracle of a book that explains the world and explores the universal.
Hannah's World is a novel about a nine-year-old Turkish Jewish girl growing up in "Little Istanbul," a working-class neighborhood in Paris. The story starts in 1939, just before the Nazi occupation of France, and Ariane Bois realistically describes first the wonder and hopes of the Turkish Jews in the glory that is Paris at that time and then the transformation that occurs when the Germans arrive.
Hannah Behar's parents arrived in Paris in 1925 with next to nothing, hoping to start new and better lives. Fourteen years later, Hannah's father owns his own shop, and although they are not rich, they are happy to be able to live "like God in France" as the Yiddish proverb puts it.
Hannah is a quiet young girl, but her best friend, "Suzon" Dupuis, who lives in the same building, couldn't be more different. She is French and fearless, a free spirit who doesn't worry about anything and seems oblivious to the arrival of the war and the ugliness of the German occupation. Unlike Hannah, her family is well-off and doesn't have to worry about such things as food rationing by the Vichy government. When the anti-Semitic laws are established, staying friends becomes difficult: Hannah is forced to wear a yellow star on her clothing when she goes out, she is no longer allowed to attend her dance class with Suzon, she can't go with her to the movies, the library, or even the city parks, which are now forbidden to "dogs and Jews."
During the first months of the German occupation, Hannah's family is protected by her father's Turkish passport, but they know that cannot last. After the French police round up, arrest, and imprison 13,000 Jews in the Vel' d'Hiv, the Turkish government charters a train to repatriate its Jewish citizens to Istanbul. Hannah and her mother board the train, but her father decides to stay in Paris with her grandparents.
The return to Paris after the war is devastating to Hannah and her mother. They find their neighborhood destroyed, and slowly realize that the rest of their family is dead. Suzon is still there, and her presence soothes Hannah. But the story is not finished: Years later, Hannah makes a shocking discovery involving the Dupuis family and the deportation of her father. Now she must confront her friend.