Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville

This book tells two stories about two girls. One a child acting out to deal with the loss and change around her, as her physician father moves closer to his work in what she calls a human zoo. The other, a young woman who appears on a road leading to Vienna, naked, beaten and telling the psychologist who takes her in that she is an automaton created to kill an enemy. Both of them navigate through and understand the world through fairy tales, and as their stories unfold, we discover the links between them.

In a way, this book is subtly about the way in which the darkness of fairy tales and the archetypes they contain, help us to understand the bad things that happen around us or within us, or give us a means of containing them or overcoming danger and obstacles. A means of having power over the unknowable, over things too dangerous, ugly or violent to be understood rationally. It is also about disassociation, or our inability to feel things when those feelings are too dark, disturbing or sad.

But, it’s also a good story littered with fairy tale references of a mysterious woman with no name, who isn’t what she seems, and a little girl who has been kind of spoilt and suddenly finds herself caught up in political events that are too big to be understood.

Read It If: You like dark stories, because this book is quite dark in places, or if you like fairy tales or mysteries. I highly recommend it.

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