Recently I made a shopping trip to Bismarck because I needed a place with better groceries and I needed to get my glasses fixed. But because it’s me, I made a trip to Barnes and Noble. I was with someone so I couldn’t stay as long as I had liked. But I did find one book that I did find interesting. It’s The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy.
I had the hardest time with this book. It’s a retelling of Hansel and Gretel, not my favorite folk story, and its set in World War 2, one of my favorite wars. But from the get go, I didn’t like it. A lot of people do, not me. I always make an excuse for why I don’t like a book. Like life issues or it wasn’t the right time for me to read this book or conflict of interest or something of that sort. I could do that for this book. But I won’t. Just a warning, there’s going to be spoilers.
From the start of this book, I had a hard time believing it. I know war makes you do drastic things but it seemed the father seemed way to easily convinced to abandon his children and then the stepmother be like go by Hansel and Gretel and the kids be like okay, let’s leave breadcrumbs to leave a trail. I wouldn’t have taken that at that age. By the way what is with that marriage? I didn’t like it. She had too much power over him. The stepmother just seemed like an altogether horrible person to me. She didn’t even tell the father where the kids were. I know it was for protection but still not a likable character.
So the kids. I feel like I’ve said this a lot but I was confused on ages. They say early on how old Gretel is but Hansel I couldn’t figure out right away because he seemed quite a bit younger but said the word penis quite authoritatively but then questioned what the circumcision is. But maybe I’m expecting of him. Maybe he hadn’t been fully told what a circumcision was. It’s totally possible. I thought there was a lot of pressure on him at the end to take care of him and Gretel and she was messed up. He did show his age when he got jealous of the baby and I appreciated that.
I questioned the priest because he wallowed in his own self-pity and drank because of it. I kind of always hate that character that wallows in self-pity. But then he redeems himself by killing Nazis then openly sat with the blood on him. Did he want to get caught so he would die and end his self-hate? How should I feel about him? I’m not quite sure. I also wondered how many of the clergy lost their faith during that time because there was so much strife during that time. And you see a lot of strife in the book. Side note: there are a couple other characters in the book but I don’t want to talk about them.
Magda saved the book for me. She’s the reason I gave this book a three on GoodReads and not a 2. I really didn’t enjoy this book. But then there’s the scene where she dies and I loved it. I hated to see her die but loved how it was written. I liked her snarky lines. Magda could not do any wrong in my eyes. I think she had a line at the beginning about Christians acting like the Christians they bragged to be. I liked that. I also like she was gypsy. I feel like if you weren’t Jew in WWII, you were forgotten and there were a lot of groups that were persecuted. This book showed that and I appreciate that.
Random thoughts. I found it was interesting that you didn’t know any of their real names. It bothered me and I really liked it at the same time. I always thought you were going to learn their names at the end but you didn’t and I was almost okay with that. Little disappointed though. I get the kids were too young and traumatized to remember so I get it. I also kept thinking of the movie that Heath Ledger was in about the Brothers Grimm.