STARRED REVIEW
October 2014

Where dark history and fairy tales collide

By Eliza Granville
Eliza Granville’s suspenseful novel hearkens back to the fairy tales we remember from childhood—but not the sanitized Disney versions. These are the darker tales about witches, ovens and children lost in the deep woods, fleeing for their lives.
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Eliza Granville’s suspenseful novel hearkens back to the fairy tales we remember from childhood—but not the sanitized Disney versions. These are the darker tales about witches, ovens and children lost in the deep woods, fleeing for their lives.

Gretel and the Dark tells two stories that eventually connect, revealing the mystery at the heart of the novel. The first concerns Krysta, a young girl in Nazi-controlled Germany whose widowed father works at an infirmary with an ominous mission. Granville reveals this world through the eyes of Krysta, a spirited and stubborn girl who seems to delight in confounding her adult caretakers. Krysta uses elements of fairy stories to explain her father’s increasingly tortured mental state and the bizarre world in which she finds herself. As Granville gradually unveils the chilling details—which her innocent narrator does not fully understand—we readers recognize the true terror of her situation.

The second story, told in alternate chapters, takes place in the late 19th century. Josef Breuer, a psychoanalyst of some renown, becomes fascinated by a nameless, beautiful woman claiming to be a machine. She’s in search of a monster, she tells him, who must be destroyed before he spawns more monsters just like himself. Breuer is determined to discover who she is and why she bears a smudged tattoo of numbers on her forearm.

This combination of history, mystery and fairy tale makes for engrossing and irresistible reading—right up to the ultimately redemptive final twist.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Gretel and the Dark

Gretel and the Dark

By Eliza Granville
Riverhead
ISBN 9781594632556

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