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Book Review: The True Story of Hansel and Gretel

March 16, 2011

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 Jewish 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 father reluctantly agrees and the step-mother instructs the children to never tell anyone who they are, to forget their Jewish names and to call themselves by their new names: Hansel and Gretel. The children are left in the forest to fend for themselves where they find their way to the home of a witch named Magda and her large oven.

A parallel plotline follows the father and stepmother as they struggle to escape the Nazis and survive with the hope of eventually reuniting with their children.

This is not a fairy tale for children. Murphy’s story, written with an almost poetic elegance, is a dark and powerful tale that is multi-layered, rich in characterization and plot and is not always easy to read. The ending, in particular, left me feeling a little sick. That’s not a criticism against the book or the author, but a testament to just how powerful I thought Murphy’s story was.

I give this a high recommendation. Please don’t pass The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by with the thought that it’s “just another Holocaust story”.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Cassie permalink
    March 23, 2012 8:05 am

    Powerful is the perfect word for this book. I was both horrified and amazed on finishing it this morning. Just searching through wordpress for reviews and found your blog. Enjoyed this review.


    • Michael Fishman permalink
      March 24, 2012 4:35 am

      Hi Cassie. I’m glad you found the review and enjoyed it.



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