Updated on May 19, 2015
6. ‘Gretel and the Dark’ by Eliza Granville
A couple of years ago I wrote about how much I loved Angela Carter‘s dark, twisted take on the fairytale. Imagine my delight, then, when Penguin offered me another book in the same vein: Gretel and the Dark.
[CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS]
This book tells two stories. There’s the story of Dr Josef Breuer, who takes on a mysterious patient he names Lilie. She is found naked, with her head-shaved, and she tells the doctor that she is a carefully crafted machine, sent from the future to kill a monster. The doctor tries to get to the bottom of her story, whilst also battling his own growing feelings for Lilie and his jealousy when he finds her spending time with his helper, Benjamin. The second story follows Krysta, a spoiled little girl who lives next to a ‘zoo’ full of ‘animals’. In fact it’s a concentration camp where her father works as a doctor, experimenting on the inmates.
Granville does keep you guessing about what exactly the relationship is between the two different stories and, subsequently, the ending was satisfyingly unpredictable (at least for me!). All in all I found Krysta’s chapters to be the most engaging; I felt that the Dr Josef and Lilie story dragged a little and ended up being too hurried at the end. I really like the use of Krysta’s doll, Lottie, who represents her bad side and whom Krysta punishes when she’s done something naughty herself.
Of course, stories play a vital role in this novel. Krysta is a child raised on stories and there are many mentions of classic fairytales (and countless plot parallels) throughout Gretel and the Dark. The fact that these fairytales are set against such a disturbing backdrop serves to make the novel more eerie, and the sinister atmosphere is pulled off beautifully. Similarly, the fairytale elements provide a little light relief from the main storylines, which do get very, very dark. Gretel and the Dark is an excellent novel – well worth the read!
Why not read the book and let me know what you think?