Thursday, July 16, 2009

Book Review: The True Story of Hansel and Gretel

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel
A Novel of War and Survival
by Louise Murphy
Penguin, 2003.pp.320
ISBN #0142003077

In this fractured fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel, it is not difficult to notice the underlying original tale as the story unfolds. The original tale is scary, but The True Story of Hansel and Gretel is terrifying. The characters of the witch and stepmother, pulled from the strong females in the original are anything but evil. In this story the evil “witch” is portrayed by the Oberfurher one of the feared SS who has piercing eyes of ice and a heart of impenetrable granite. There is no gingerbread house in this story, but the Oberfurher will lure children with candy, in the hopes of a careless slip-up.

As the story unfolds, Hansel and Gretel are pushed out into the woods by their stepmother and father, a dire decision, but necessary to survive. The two young children drift without direction, sprinkling breadcrumbs hoping their parents will be able to find them later.

They stumble upon a cottage in the woods where Magda, the village witch lives. She is a strange old woman and although reluctant at first, she acquiesces and agrees to help the children. Magda must present the two for inspection. She creates false papers, altered photographs and must change the color of Hansel’s hair. With daring courage, knowing she and the children could be shot if her subterfuge is detected she presents the children for review.

Murphy’s strength is in her passionate writing that is edgy and realistic. With tension and suspense she chillingly tells about a rape, the psychopathic behavior of the Oberfurer and desperate measures the villages take to save their children.

The reading is slow at first, then suddenly as details unfold you will be flipping furiously to the next page. Set in two locations, the story eventually merges together and quickly like a force in motion builds to a breathtaking end.

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel
is a story of hope and survival, where despite the harshness of war, the love and memories that bond families together can never be stolen.

On a personal note: When I finished this book, I held it in my hand, my body stunned. I sat for some time in my cozy chair savoring the moment, unable to move but reflecting on the message and this wonderful book.


Lezlie said...

Oh!! You beat me to this one! I have it on the pile of stuff to read within the next month or so. I'm so glad it seems you really liked it. I thought it sounded amazing! I didn't read your review thoroughly because I'll be getting to it so soon, but I'll try to remember to link you when I write my thoughts on it. If I forget, please remind me!


Anonymous said...

Wow, this sounds really intense. Even your review had me racing through it so I could see what happened!

Marg said...

The concept of a fractured fairy tale set against WWII sounds reminiscent of a Jane Yolen book, Briar Rose.

I have already taken steps to get this book based on your review!

Unknown said...

My bookclub read this and we all loved it!

BurtonReview said...

Excellent review, and I appreciate the heads up!
Off to go see where it is!

The Bookworm said...

wow, this does sound intense. great review as usual.

Darlene said...

I had this one out from the library a while ago but never had a chance to get to it. I must take it out again. Great review!

wisteria said...

Lezlie....I know what you mean about reading reviews before you read a book. Especially if you plan on reviewing it also. I try to be rather cryptic in my reviews..more like a teaser booktalk.
Rhapsody..Jill..It is intense, but well worth the read.
Marg.I have heard of Briar Rose and love Jane Yolen. I'll have to read it.
Shelley..I would be interested to hear what your book club thought. Would you post some of their thoughts?
Marie. Thanks and your welcome. Let me know what you think.
Naida..Thanks Naida! You would like this book because it is a historical thriller...
Dar Thanks Dar..Go get it back form the library..LOL I can't believe I never heard of this book till recently.

Literary Feline said...

I am so glad you liked this one, Donna. It really has stayed with me all these years since I read it. Such a haunting tale.

Ana S. said...

Wow! I am so glad this won my poll! I'm looking forward to it more than ever now.

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books said...

Wow! This sounds great; I can see why you'd be turning the pages so quickly. I'll put in on my list of possibilities for the WWII Challenge (I'm woefully behind!)

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

I'm not sure this one is for me, but it sure sounds intense and intriguing!

Anna said...

We posted your review on War Through the Generations.

Diary of an Eccentric

Cassie said...

I absolutely love your personal note at the end because that is exactly how I felt just finishing this book ten minutes ago. I've been searching google for reviews, and love yours. So, thank you.