Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy

Dark, scary, and at times almost to painful to read - this is what I thought of Louise Murphy's The True Story of Hansel and Gretel.

There are so many books out there about the Holocaust and there are a few that combine it's history with the idea of a fairytale. One example is Briar Rose by Jane Yolen. Both books are good and emotional reads that do not try to hide the horrors of the holocaust. Briar Rose is aimed more towards a young adult reader. The True Story of Hansel and Gretel is not. That is not to say a young adult couldn't read Hansel and Gretel, they could but the language is harsher and the horrors deeper.

Set in Poland during the Nazi occupation, Hansel and his sister Gretel are abandoned in the woods by their father and Stepmother. This is as much to try and save them as it is to give the parents a chance to escape, after all the Nazis are after them. This is a race for survival. The children are slowing the parents down and the parents are beacons for he Nazis to find the children. Spliting up may be the only chance for survival. It is the stepmother who tells them to forget who they are and renames them after the fairytale pair.

We follow the children, who end up in the house of a local Rom witch. We also follow the father as he joins up with the resistance army, trying to reunite with his family. It's a heartbreaking story where both the fairytale and history blend together into a stark tale.

Book Description:
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 is determined to save them, even as a German officer arrives in the village with his own plans for the children.

No comments: