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.
Combining classic themes of fairy tales and war literature, Louise Murphy's haunting novel of journey and survival, of redemption and memory, powerfully depicts how war is experienced by families and especially by children. The True Story of Hansel and Gretel tells a resonant, riveting story.
©2003 Louise Murphy (P)2014 Tantor
"Lyrical, haunting, unforgettable." (Kirkus, Starred Review)
I was drawn into the world and the lives of a small village of Polish peasants impoverished and brutalized by war. A place surrounded by a primeval and richly beautiful forest where the daily aspects of sacrifice, horror, fear and the power of love are played out. And of two Jewish children rescued and taken in by an outcast "witch" named Magda..
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As I am sure was the point: it was the title that intrigued me.
It was a clever way to weave the fairy tale into a story, but over all I didn’t love it. Not a bad story, but more disturbing and alarming than interesting and compelling… of course the plight of Jews in WW2 is disturbing; but I’ve read better.
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