This is a book review by my older sister Danylle. Enjoy!
The True Story of Hansel and Gretel: A Novel of War and Survival by Louise Murphy
I happen to be a fan of historical fiction books set in Europe during WWII. I find that time period to be sadly haunting and the types of stories told are very interesting to me. I also happen to like reworked versions of fairy tales, so this one was really up my alley.
"Hansel" and "Gretel" are two Jewish children on the run in Poland with their father and step-mother. They have Nazis hot on their tail, so to give the children a chance, the father and step-mother drop them off in the woods, give them new, non-Jewish names (Hansel and Gretel) and tell them to run. Walking through the woods, Hansel drop bread crumbs because his step-mother has a nose for any food, even crumbs, and he hopes she will be able to follow the trail. Walking through the forest, they come upon the cottage of "the witch" Magda, who is of gypsy descent. The children form a bond with Magda as she takes it upon herself to keep the children safe.
The story follows the children with Magda and her family as they try to survive the Nazi occupation of Poland. All of the elements found in the traditional story of Hansel and Gretel are woven through this story in unique ways. Like many books set in WWII Europe, this is a story of horrible tragedy, but also of hope and rising above tough circumstances.
There are so many characters I loved in this story, Magda, her niece Nelka, the woodsman Telek. There were also some I hated, while others surprised me by showing their redeeming qualities. There were many heroic acts by several characters, most giving the ultimate sacrifice. I thought Louise Murphy did a fantastic job of making the characters seem real.
My disclaimer for the "R" rating. There is some hard language and some sexual situations in this book that might make some people uncomfortable. It was also a very "dark" book as you can imagine with some graphic imagery.
All in all I found it very interesting, compelling, and a great story.