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The True Story of Hansel and Gretel

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  8,490 Ratings  ·  1,268 Reviews
In the last months of the Nazi occupation of Poland, two children are left by their father and stepmother to find safety in a dense forest. Because their real names will reveal their Jewishness, they are renamed "Hansel" and "Gretel." They wander in the woods until they are taken in by Magda, an eccentric and stubborn old woman called "witch" by the nearby villagers. Magda ...more
Kindle Edition, 324 pages
Published July 29th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2003)
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it is dana's birthday!

and as a wonderful birthday present, i am setting aside the proust for a minute, and taking the time to write a dana-requested book review! and before you start thinking that i give shitty presents, here is something else i gave her for her birthday:

it's her crush paul o'neill!! with an erection!! oh, i am so thoughtful...

but this book - let's recover from the levity and put on our serious faces - although it draws from fairy tales and there is a sortof gauze of irreality p
Jun 14, 2011 Chrissie rated it really liked it

Look at the title of this book. It tells exactly what you will get from this book! Hansel and Gretel is a fairy tale, this is that fairy tale rewritten for adults. I had been warned by reading numerous reviews that this would be a dark tale. I had no idea it would be so very dark. Don't take my words lightly, I warned you! Some reviewers state that the evil is too gruesome, too overboard. I do not make this criticism. Why? Well, because as a child, when we are told fairy tales, we
Feb 12, 2008 Joanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a chilling book that took a few of the features of the familiar fairy tale and wove them into an incredible story of two Polish children hiding from the Nazis during the end of WWII. By no means a book for children, in this retelling, the author does not mince words and writes extremely graphic scenes depicting the cruelty of the Nazi officials. Nonetheless, the book manages to convey hope. All of the characters are complex and carefully drawn, and the book manages to follow the stories ...more
Update 12/3/2016 - Still a wonderful book to teach. Students love it.

Many writers make use of fairy tale motifs in their writing. Murphy isn't even the first writer to make use of such motifs in a tale set during the Holocaust. Yolen's Briar Rose pre dates this.
Murphy's tale has all the power of Yolen's novel.

Murphy does not deal totally with central characters; in fact, she does not reveal the true names of four of her central characters. Instead she uses labels that become names. Even Hansel
Jul 01, 2016 Lynnski rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star-reads, 2016
I am truly at a loss for words as to how much I adored this book. Yes, it’s another book taking place during World War II but it can’t be defined by that. It is a story of love and compassion, putting your life at risk for others, and the struggle to survive. Unlike other holocaust books I’ve read, this one takes place in a small village in Poland and the surrounding woods and fields. A Jewish family escapes the ghetto and separates in order to try and survive. The children’s names are changed t ...more
Aug 17, 2007 John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The reader finds out right away that this novel is set in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II, and that the main characters are Jewish. So the reader has to be prepared for some cruelty. Still, the level, weirdness and frequency of the cruelty in this novel seems egregious to me. And some of the characters don't seem believable -- almost to the point of being cartoonish in one case.
Perhaps when it comes to the Holocaust, it's better to stick to nonfiction. A couple of fine examples are "Nig
Joy Kieffer
Sep 18, 2012 Joy Kieffer rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one!
Recommended to Joy by: required reading for my 11th grader
Shelves: not-recommended
Have you checked out your child's required reading list? DO IT! 11th Grade: The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy.

Not only is this required reading in our school district, it is in the YA section of our local library. Please note that the publisher recommends it for 18 and over. There is a reason, folks!

Ever wondered what happened to the real mother? Top of page two, "He buried his wife beside the road after the strafing, when she lay with her beautiful torso facing the sky, dress
Jan 03, 2011 Leigh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am giving this book 5 stars, not because it entertained me or left me feeling uplifted or encouraged, but because it is an enthralling story that I will not soon forget. Whereas many books build up to a single climax, this book is continually climactic as the main characters are faced with an almost daily test of survival in the most horrifying of realistic circumstances in WWII. It is brilliantly written and researched, and although the details of war were so repulsive that I more than once a ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I'm generally a sucker for fairy-tale retellings, but while the description of the setting evokes both a place out of time and a Polish village during the Nazi occupation, the prose is too erratic. I read on after being encouraged by a sublime passage of the young girl's reaction to trauma, even continued after the prose almost immediately turned cringe-worthy for another scene. But what stopped me completely in my tracks (around page 170) was a plot contrivance that made no sense as to the char ...more
Jun 12, 2012 Shawn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Under "Bookshelf" options, there should be an option entitled "Done", as in "I've had it". Were there such a choice, I would have selected it instead of the rather misleading "Read", which suggests that I in fact finished this dreadful novel. I did not. I gave it one star only because, like a "Done" button, the "Star" options are sorely lacking the ability to take stars away. There should be a way to remove stars from future novels by authors of horrendous books that deserve not only no star, bu ...more
May 10, 2008 April rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to April by: Minnie Romanovich
To date, this is the best retelling of a fairy tale that I have ever read, and I've read a couple of very good ones. The author takes the story of Hansel and Gretel and sets it against the events of World War II and the Holocaust, and it's just brilliantly done.

It starts very briefly with the witch, who is not really a witch. She's a woman of Gypsy blood, but the villagers call her a witch. Then we're introduced to Hansel and Gretel, whose names aren't really Hansel and Gretel. They are two Jewi
Dec 03, 2010 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In The True Story of Hansel and Gretel, Louise Murphy adapts the classic fairy tale and sets it in World War II Poland. The story begins in the winter of 1943 with a family running from the Nazis. On the verge of being caught, the step-mother convinces the father that the best chance to ensure the safety of the two children would be to leave them in the forest and return for them later. The step-mother instructs the children to never tell anyone who they are and to forget their Jewish names and ...more
Nov 06, 2009 Jordan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this book was fantastic. What a magical horrifying journey. It's so sad, so scary. The history behind this book is so terrifying.. children fighting for survival, hiding, starving, running, freezing, pretending, facing unimaginable horrors. forced into growing up ahead of their time, developing incredible courage and strength- this book is a perfect mix of fantasy and reality, it will really touch your spirit. I recommend it, but warn that it is dark and depressing at times.
Addison Walker
Dec 20, 2014 Addison Walker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before reading this book, the events of the holocaust were just events that happened a long time ago and didn't affect me. However, this book gave me whole new perspective by putting a twist on a classic fairytale. The story is about two Jewish kids whose parents leave them on the side of the road near the woods to protect them. Promising that they will come back to get them, the parents take off after giving their children new "non-Jewish" names, Hansel and Gretel. The kids journey through the ...more
Sep 24, 2013 ☮Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Normally I would be turned off a bit by the obvious comparisons in the book to the Grimm’s fairy tale, with the stepmother turning the children out into the forest, Hansel leaving bread crumbs along the trails, and the cottage with bread attached to it perhaps meant to lure hungry children. These writing ploys usually make me wonder if the author has any original thoughts. But very quickly Murphy turned me around and I was converted. Instead of an evil witch in the cottage, Magda turned out to b ...more
This was an amazing book. There were moments when I wanted to cry, moments which sent chills up my spine. It is one of those books that stays with you after you put it down. It is the story of two innocent children forced to grow up way too soon by the atrocities of war and the abject evil of the Nazis. I loved how the traditional fairy tale was used as a backdrop, with the imagery of that tale threaded throughout the story. The story was also interesting in that it was set in Nazi-occupied Pola ...more
Sep 29, 2014 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You can pretty much expect any story about this period of history to be, at some point, an emotionally difficult read. And this was certainly hard to stomach at times. However, I appreciate the way the author told the story. It never felt like she was preying on our emotions or that she took the story over the top. The whole Hansel and Gretel theme made for an interesting twist and I really loved that. It was unique. Great writing, the story was told simply but packed a lot of punch. Both heartb ...more
Diane S ☔
Sep 05, 2011 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an extremely powerful but violent re=telling of a fairy tale. Very intense book about World War ll and two Jewish children running through the woods for their lives and the old woman, Magda, that they villagers called a witch but who risked her life to help the children survive.
Dec 20, 2016 Arah-Lynda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Arah-Lynda by: Wayne Barrett
Shelves: i-said, paperwhite
Caught between green earth and blue sky, only truth kept me sane, but now lies disturb my peace. The story has been told over and over again by liars and it must be retold. Do not struggle when the hook of a word pulls you into the air of truth and you cannot breathe.
For a little while I ask this of you. Come with me.

Once upon a time during the last months of the Nazi occupation of Poland two Jewish children, eleven and seven, were left by their father and stepmother at the roadside and told to
Sep 26, 2016 Kirsty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am drawn to stories set during the Second World War, particularly when those stories are involved with survival. I will read anything to do with this topic, from the diaries of those who hid from captors, to fictional accounts of the ways in which both capture and death could be evaded. I also love fairytales, and modern day adaptations of old favourites. I had therefore had my eye upon Louise Murphy’s The True Story of Hansel and Gretel for quite some time, and began it as soon as I had procu ...more
Apr 10, 2011 Nina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: damngood
Jika anda berharap kisah ini bercerita mengenai kekejaman ibu tiri dan jahatnya seorang penyihir, Anda pasti kecewa. Seperti yang tertulis pada halaman awal :
“Kisah ini telah diceritakan berulang-ulang oleh para pendusta dan harus diceritakan kembali. Jangan berontak ketika hujaman kata menarikmu ke udara kebenaran dan membuatmu tak dapat bernapas”
Dan benar. Saya sulit bernapas ketika membaca kisah ini.

Cerita ini dilatarbelakangi oleh bulan-bulan terakhir masa pendudukan Nazi di Polandia, sekita
Regina Lindsey
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 27, 2012 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you’re looking for a light read, then this isn’t the book for you. But if you’re looking for a well-written story, with intriguing characters, which leaves you questioning man’s inhumanity to man, then you’ll want to pick up this book.

It’s a story about doing what it takes to survive, about the love between siblings, and it’s a story about finding hope amidst despair. It’s an interesting reimagining of the classic fairy tale, and it spares no punches with your emotions. If you want to face th
Oct 10, 2016 Alana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I probably still need to chew on this one a little more, but my first thoughts after finishing are that I liked it, but it's dark and I really don't want to read it again. Plus, I've read entirely too many Holocaust novels recently (accidentally picked up Number the Stars right after this one, not knowing it was a Holocaust story) so the stories can blend together a bit. While the author claims in an afterward that this is supposed to be an uplifting and encouraging story, I felt those emotions ...more
Bread crumbs. A cottage in the woods. A witch. An oven. These simple phrases evoke the imagery of the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel”. It is a saga which is haunting enough on its own merit. Louise Murphy uses the skeleton of the story and builds in Nazi-occupied Poland to enlarge the revulsion in “The True Story of Hansel and Gretel”.

“The True Story of Hansel and Gretel” is not a re-imagining of the famous fairy tale but is instead an allegory using the familiar symbolisms in order to fashion a
Jul 27, 2012 Susan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
The fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel boils down to a pair of siblings, abandoned in the woods by their parents in the face of imminent starvation, who are seemingly rescued by a witch. But when the children find that the witch’s kind meals are to fatten them up so they can be cooked in her oven, they trick the witch into cooking herself in their places.

Of course there are other elements that are probably just as essential in some people’s retelling: breadcrumb paths that get eaten by birds, ginge
Book Concierge
Per the subtitle, this is a novel of “war and survival.”

During WW II, two Jewish children are left in the primordial forest of Poland by their father and stepmother, who are fleeing the Nazis. Their stepmother tells them to use the names “Hansel & Gretel” and to find a farmer who might take them in. Gretel is blond and green-eyed; she can easily “pass.” But her brother has curly dark hair, and brown eyes; and, of course, he’s circumcised.

Gretel is 11, her brother only 7, and it is early win
Liza Fireman
May 02, 2016 Liza Fireman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-at-hoopla, ebook
I am a sucker when it comes to retelling childhood fairytales, even though most of them are not that well done. This one is exceptionally good retelling, taking Hansel and Gretel to Poland during the Holocaust. The witch, the oven, the breadcrumbs, the children, the stepmother, the weak father, all of them are well described in a well woven story.
I highly value historical fiction that is uncovering less famous historical, highlighting forgotten pieces of history. Unfortunately, it seems that th
Oct 16, 2011 LemonLinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a tragic take on the German occupation of Poland, but is well told and although the story is indeed horrific, it ends with hope and love and is quite a story. Yes, it is a retelling of the classic fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel, and is cleverly done in that the oven, the forest and the "witch" are all included. But if I were to ever encounter a witch, I hope she would be as good and kind and selfless as Magda.

It is a Holocaust story but is more than that. It is also a story of the German
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Born in 1943 in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Louise Murphy began writing stories when she was five years old. An avid reader and prolific writer, she attended the University of Kentucky and taught English to middle-school students in Newark, Delaware, before moving to California in 1968. There, she raised her two children and received a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco Stat ...more
More about Louise Murphy...

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“God didn't come down and kill us. I don't see God shooting children and priests. None of us met God beating up Jews and shoving them into railroad cars. This is men doing the murdering. Talk to men about their evil, kill the evil men, but pray to God. You can't expect God to come down and do our living for us. We have to do that ourselves.” 18 likes
“Do not struggle when the hook of a word pulls you into the air of truth and you cannot breathe.” 10 likes
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