Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. Throwback Thursday is an awesome opportunity to share old favorites as well as older books in our TBR. I love this idea as I only started blogging about a year and a half ago. Therefore, I have lots of old favorites to talk about. While I may not remember all of the details needed to write a complete review, I’m happy to share the thoughts and impressions that have remained with me long after I finished the book.
My pick of the the week is:
The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy
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, this haunting novel of journey and survival, of redemption and memory, powerfully depicts how war is experienced by families and especially by children, and tells a resonant, riveting story.
Years before the current trend of fairy tale retellings, Louise Murphy penned this beautiful, poignant novel that has stayed with me. I believe I read it in 2004. As many of you know, I read a lot of WWII novels. This is the book that kick-started my obsession.
On it’s own, the book is the well-told story of two Jewish children and their fight to survive the Nazi occupation of Poland. Had they not been renamed Hansel and Gretel, had there been no reference to the fairy tale at all, this book would still have been a great read.
From the very beginning, everything we know about the tale first told by the Brothers Grimm is challenged. We learn the true motivation behind their stepmother’s decision to abandon them in the forest. As for the witch, Magda is not what we expect. She is a character to love. Though this book is, at times, as sad and dark as we’d expect a WWII novel could be, it is also uplifting in many ways. The True Story of Hansel and Gretel is a powerful reminder that we must be cautious in what we allow ourselves to be lead to believe is the true and full story.