Monday, July 13, 2015

Gretel and the Dark - Eliza Granville

Gretel and the DarkThis book had a lot of things that I absolutely love: fairy tales, historical fiction, a psychological element.  At times, it was absolutely enchanting.  But despite the book's very good reviews, I didn't really like it overall.  There were a few reasons for this.  First, until the very end of the book, you're left wondering what the heck is going on.  The two alternating storylines are obviously connected, but I was left wondering if one of the stories was a dream, a delusion, or if Granville was actually going with the idea of someone time-traveling in order to try to kill Hitler.  Second, I'm not sure how, but Granville actually managed to make a main character who is a Holocaust survivor utterly unlikeable.

Okay, that was kind of a lie.  I know exactly how Granville managed to make her Holocaust-survivor main character unlikeable.  Mainly, she made Krysta a complete brat, so much that I wanted to slap her and lock her in a cupboard just as much as most of the characters that surrounded her did.  We weren't supposed to like Johanna, but man, I sympathized with Johanna and her desire to put Krysta in her place way more than I sympathized with Krysta herself.  Her constant streams of "Won't," "Want," "Don't want to," and so on were absolutely unbearable at more than one point.  Granville tried to turn her obstinacy into a positive trait later in the narrative, successfully, but even that wasn't enough to wash away the dislike of Krysta that had built up over the first three-quarters of the book.

The other characters I liked.  Lilie's character was weird but cool, Josef's character was creepy but realistic and added an interesting psychological element to the story, Benjamin was easily the most empathy-worthy character of the lot, and Gudrun and Greet both had the "gruff housekeeper who means well" dynamic to them.  I found that I enjoyed the Vienna storyline much more than the Ravensbruck storyline, which is kind of problematic given the structure of the two and how they fit together.  Whenever Krysta appeared on the page, I wanted her off it as soon as possible, and considering she was our main point-of-view character...that's an issue.  I know Krysta was young--exactly how young I don't remember, if it was ever mentioned, though it is mentioned that she's older than one would think--and had somewhat-recently lost her mother, but let me tell you: in all my years of dealing with precocious children and entitled students, I have never met a child as insufferable as Krysta is.

The inclusion of all the different fairy tales and how they fit together and morphed from telling to telling was interesting, but trying to figure out how they fit into the different timelines and storylines was disorientating and didn't allow me to get a good feel for the story as a whole.  It was just a weird feeling, and in the end I wasn't sure where I was left standing with this one.  Normally I would read a fairy tale-inspired book more than once, but this one?  Not so much.

2.5 stars out of 5.

No comments:

Post a Comment