Review | Gretel and the Dark – Eliza Granville

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  • Hardcover (Hamish Hamilton, 362 pages)
  • First published 2014; this edition published 2014
  • Rating on Goodreads: 3 stars

“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. . . .”


I bought this after watching Jen Campbell’s recommendation in her Fairytales video. It seemed right up my street: dark, gritty, and of course full of the fairytales that I so love. (And can we mention the cover? So lovely. So beautiful.)

And to an extent, I wasn’t disappointed. Granville’s writing is atmospheric and lovely. The characterisations of her characters – particularly little Krysta – are full and rich, with dialogue woven with hope and humour. And the ‘present’ setting in a psychiatric hospital was something that I particularly enjoyed, as well as Josef’s interaction with his ‘strange case’ patient, who claims to not even have a name, much less be of human origin.

However, I felt that a lot of the storytelling became muddled, and not a lot was made clear to me. Though the style was atmospheric, it was not as gripping as I’d hoped, and I found myself having to push on and read it at times, as if it was a chore. It really didn’t grasp me, and I finished the book feeling somewhat cheated of what could have been a brilliant fairytale adaptation.

If you enjoy fairytale retellings and fairytales set in more modern times, you might enjoy this. But it’s entirely up to your own tastes. Try it, and see what you think.

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