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Literary Friday: Gretel and the Dark

Friday, October 21, 2016

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  I hope your week has been productive and wonderful.  Recently I read another great book: Gretel in the Dark by Eliza Granville.

From Goodreads:

A dark, distinctive and addictively compelling novel set in fin-de-si├Ęcle Vienna and Nazi Germany—with a dizzying final twist.

Vienna, 1899. Josef Breuer—celebrated psychoanalyst—is about to encounter his strangest case yet. Found by the lunatic asylum, thin, head shaved, she claims to have no name, no feelings—to be, in fact, not even human. Intrigued, Breuer determines to fathom the roots of her disturbance.

Years later, in Germany, we meet Krysta. Krysta’s Papa is busy working in the infirmary with the ‘animal people,’ so little Krysta plays alone, lost in the stories of Hansel and Gretel, the Pied Piper, and more. And when everything changes and the world around her becomes as frightening as any fairy tale, Krysta finds her imagination holds powers beyond what she could have ever guessed. . . .

Eliza Granville has had a life-long fascination with the enduring quality of fairytales and their symbolism, and the idea for Gretel and the Dark was sparked when she became interested in the emphasis placed on these stories during the Third Reich.

My Review:

This novel is one of the best debuts I've ever read.  Its structure is a little complicated as there are two narratives woven together within the context of a fairytale.  The turn of the century narrative in Vienna has magical realism elements.  Lillie is found by Dr. Breuer's servant Benjamin and brought to Breuer's home.  She's in pitiful shape when she arrives: She's naked, bald, and mute.  As Lillie overcomes her selective mutism she confides to Dr. Breuer that she isn't human, and her mission is to kill.  Her words do not match her beauty; Both Breuer and Benjamin are enchanted.  The mysterious appearance of butterflies at the Breuer home adds to the magical realism atmosphere and mood, and their symbolism represents the co-narrative set in Nazi Germany.  Benjamin is my favorite character in the book because he sees the world as it is and maintains his honesty.

In the Nazi Germany narrative Krysta's character isn't likable.  I sympathize with her nanny Greet (her mother has passed) because Krysta is such a little pill.  She tells Krysta many stories and fairytales in order to give her a moral education.  When Krysta and her father move away to an insidious complex that houses "animals" not "humans," Krysta draws from Greet's stories to try and make sense of her circumstances because everyone in her world creates false narratives.  Fairytales provide her construct for survival.

Beautifully written, Gretel and the Dark is as the title says: dark!  I find Granville's premise about the Nazi's use of fairytales as propaganda both interesting and insidious.  I highly recommend this book in spite of the disturbing narratives which merge in a surprising twist.  Eliza Granville is an author I will continue to read because her voice is unique and exceptional!

Below is a video with an excerpt from the beginning of the book.  It exemplifies the fairytale atmosphere and narrative style of the novel.  I hope you enjoy it!

I'm adding this book to the list because it certainly has gothic elements!

Have you read any good books lately?  Please share in the comments section below!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. This book sounds amazing! Since having children, I've been interested in how dark children's stories can be (not so much lately, but in the past). The darkness, brutality, and gruesomeness seems like something we should shield children from, but on the other hand it seems to help children put morality in to a context, and they don't typically have a problem separating real life from stories. I'm putting this book next in my queue!

  2. Your reviews are always intriguing. I might step outside my comfort zone and try this. Of course, if I get nightmares... at any rate, it sounds like a bit of a challenge, and that's always good.

  3. I think this is something I might like. I have always liked novels with a bit of gothic flair woven into them. Thanks for the review. xo Diana

  4. Another great review.. the list of books you have recommended
    that I want to read, is getting longer and longer
    Thank you

  5. It sounds lovely and creepy. Thank you! I can't wait to read it. :D

  6. oooo, sounds very interesting!!!
    Thank you for visiting tonight,, I have missed everyone,, the last book I have read was miss peregrine's home for peculiar children, it was strangely enjoyable, lol,,

  7. What a review. I'm intrigued and will have to put this on my list. Sometimes I like escapism reading, other times I want something that makes me think and I definitely think this fits the bill. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this review, you did an awesome job.

  8. The fairy tale premise is interesting, however it sounds much too dark for me...I read a hot of historical novels about the WW2 era but as I've gotten older, I can't handle it any more, I have to keep things light and funny, harmless detective type spoofs are my favorite. I enjoyed reading your review though Ricki Jill, Have a great week!


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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

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