Mark Harris
August 01, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Louise Murphy
genre
Fiction

We gave it a B-

Transposing one of the grimmest of Grimm fairy tales into the Holocaust, where it becomes a parable of survival, is an intriguing idea. And the first chapters of Murphy’s novel, in which two Jewish children are taken into the woods by their father and stepmother, told that they’re now German, and abandoned (eventually to come under the protection of an old woman), have a sickening intensity — the sickening intensity, in fact, of a scary children’s story. But intriguing ideas can also be bad ones, and after the gimmick runs out of compelling parallels (which it does early on), Murphy’s flat, affectless prose isn’t enough to sustain her brutal, Kosinski-inflected story. After this and Life Is Beautiful, perhaps it’s time for a moratorium on using the Holocaust as fable fodder.

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