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." (From the back of the Penguin Books edition.)
Reading the original Grimm Brothers' fairy tale before I began The True Story of Hansel and Gretel: A Novel of War and Survival made portions of the book more predictable but no less evocative and added a rich layer of meaning to many of the scenes. Like so many books about WWII and the Holocaust, this one is difficult but necessary. What I found most memorable was that not all of the Nazi's were stereotyped. There were those who questioned their orders, and those brave souls are the ones who lifted this particular WWII/Holocaust story to a higher plane.
Only the ending marred my opinion at all. It felt cartoonish in comparison to the rest of the novel, but that wouldn't stop me from naming this book as one of the best I've read this year.
NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)
Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!