Kelly's Reviews > The True Story of Hansel and Gretel

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy
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's review
Aug 05, 09

really liked it
Read in August, 2009

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy was an incredible book. Set in Poland during WWII, it was heart-wrenching and emotional to read, particularly since two of the main characters are small children who must somehow try to survive the horrors inflicted upon them by the Nazis. Murphy spares no detail, and the story can be quite horrific and brutal to read. In the middle of reading the book, I watched the movie Defiance, which is a similar story. I cried watching the movie, I cried reading the book because I just cannot fathom the horrors human beings can inflict upon one another. But it was meaninful and, I think, important to read.

From Publishers Weekly
A provocative transformation of the classic fairy tale into a haunting survival story set in Poland during WWII, Murphy's second novel (after The Sea Within) is darkly enchanting. Two Jewish children, a girl of 11 and her seven-year-old brother, are left to wander the woods after their father and stepmother are forced to abandon them, frantically begging them never to say their Jewish names, but to identify themselves as Hansel and Gretel. In an imaginative reversal of the original tale, they encounter a small woman named Magda, known as a "witch" by villagers, who risks her life in harboring them. The story alternates between the children's nightmarish adventures, and their parents' struggle for survival and hope for a safe reunion. This mirror image of the fairy tale is deliberately disorienting, as Murphy describes the horrors of the outside world compared with the haven inside Magda's hut, and the fear and anguish of the other people who conspire to save the children and protect their own families, too. The na‹ve siblings are only half-conscious of much of this, though they are perfectly aware of their peril should they be discovered. The graphic details-the physical symptoms of near starvation, the infestations of lice, the effects of bitter cold-make it plain that this is the grimmest kind of fable. Eventually, the Nazis indulge in wholesale slaughter, and the children barely survive, hiding and on the run. No reader who picks up this inspiring novel will put it down until the final pages, in which redemption is not a fairy tale ending but a heartening message of hope.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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