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The True Story of Hansel and Gretel

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  11,707 ratings  ·  1,650 reviews
A poignant and suspenseful retelling of a classic fairy tale set in a war-torn world

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 Mag
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 29th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2003)
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Olivia.S I am 15-years-old and I just read the book for an English assignment. I have to say some of the material was hard/uncomfortable to read, but I am defi…moreI am 15-years-old and I just read the book for an English assignment. I have to say some of the material was hard/uncomfortable to read, but I am definitely glad that I did. I know that this kind of events actually happened and we need to learn about it. If we didn't read something we were uncomfortable with we would never learn anything. I think that this book is for people 12/13+ probably no younger. (less)

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Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Please visit my blog for this review and others.

It's nearly the end of the Nazi occupation of Poland and a father must abandon his children near a forest so that they can search for safety from the Germans. On the journey they meet Magda, the so-called village witch. Magda is willing to risk her life and others to keep the children safe.

"The wheel turns. Blue above, green below, we wonder a long way, but love is what the cup of our soul contains when we leave the wor
Wayne Barrett

Let me say right out of the gate that this might possibly be the best book I have read all year. It is certainly making it to my 'favorites' shelf.

Every now and then I stumble upon a hidden gem, and this is one of those books. It wasn't on my to read list, nor had I ever even heard of it. I discovered it, of all places, in the book bin at Costco. Being a book lover, I can't help but stop and browse the books when shopping. Even when just intending to make a quick stop there, that just means I'l
Dec 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Arah-Lynda by: Wayne Barrett
Shelves: paperwhite, i-said
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 to
Jun 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
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:

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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

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
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
Mar 05, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: bleh
As a reader, I am well aware that I will not enjoy every single book I take a chance on and read, but in the case of The True Story of Hansel and Gretel I wrongly assumed I was on to something good. I mean, it's Hansel and Gretel, but told in a dark fashion. What's not to like?

As it turns out: ALL OF IT.

When I finish a book that is well below par, I like to write a review almost instantly while everything is fresh in my mind. In the case of this particular book, I will not be forgetting this boo
Ann Marie (Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine)
Though I read this book several years ago, it has stayed with me. I chose it as this week's Throwback Thursday pick. You can read my mini review as well as all my other revies on the blog. ...more
Nov 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Joy Kieffer
Sep 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Davyne DeSye
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I just finished this book – well, not just… I’ve spent about half an hour just staring into space, trying to process – and I’ll say it again: Wow. Not an excited wow. Not a happy wow. It’s more “I’ll never be the same person after reading this book” wow.

I’ll start by saying I absolutely love fairy tale retellings. It’s what made me pick up this book – how could I resist the title? Then I read the blurb. Hmm. Set in Poland during the Nazi occupation. Yikes. I tend to shy away from these book
Jun 12, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Diane S ☔
Sep 04, 2011 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.
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: laura-said
This a story about survival. Two Jewish children are forced into the woods in Poland by their father and step-mother in an attempt to save their lives during WWII. In order to make their names sound less Jewish, the children are told their new names will be Hansel and Gretel like the great fairy tale.

This is not a fairy tale. Hansel and Gretel witness and are subject to the terrors, cruelty, starvation and brutality of the Nazi occupation of Poland. Yes, this is fiction, but let us not forget t
Feb 19, 2008 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 06, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Jul 16, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 05, 2014 marked it as did-not-finish
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
May 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jordan Quinto
Oct 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Amazing storytelling! A gripping account from a very human side of the attrocities committed against humans during the Holocost. The strength of those trying to survive is amazing. At times an emotionally difficult read but one I found hard to put down. I really liked how this story had remnants of the fairy tale but in a very different way, a more believable story in an unbelievable time in history.
Oct 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
"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 by liars and must be retold."

And so begins the rough story of Hansel and Gretel, told by the witch in the woods who saved them. I appreciated the adds to the story that made you see the underlying pieces of the lies - the oven, the food house and others. It added a little light and humor to such a dark story. And this IS a dark story. About two children sent out
Mary Stergioti
Loved it!!!
Strongly recomended!
Dec 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Addison Walker
Sep 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
♥ Marlene♥
Oct 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Giz-angel
Recommended to ♥ Marlene♥ by: zzz
On September 30, 2008 I wrote about this book:

Well I did finished it last night, could not put it down cause I wasn't sure it would be a happy ending or a bad end and I needed to know :) . Really good book but sometimes hard to read because of the atrocities that happened during the war.
Love the way this author created a new story of the old fairy tale, one of the scariest ones. Once you've read it you think, why did nobody else come up with this idea!.
Highly recommend this book. 9

Gary Reads
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
OMG what did i get into. The title tells you everthing. The True Story of Hansel and
Gretel is a fairy tale for adults. Very intense and graphic. I recommend
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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

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