Gretel on Her Own by Elna Holst

Elna Holst’s books make me feel smart, like she’s opening her quirky mind to the reader and sharing her cleverness and wit in more than just words.

What was the book about?
Calling this novella a queer retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairytale Hansel and Gretel is both true and inaccurate. Elna Holst takes the fairytale, breaks it apart and puts it back on with her very own twists, turning it into a completely different yet still familiar story. Whatever happened to Gretel and her brother as children, the whole family exploded and Gretel is still trying to pick up the pieces. The arrival of an uncannily and irresistibly sweet woman in the village will play havoc with her already chaotic life.

Featured Tropes
PTSD, Mental Health, Family, Witches

Book Strengths
Elna Holst is a word genius. If, like me, you click with her writing (which not everyone does and that’s okay), each new book is a promise, a brain roller coaster, a rush of endorphins that will go straight to your head.

She doesn’t choose the easiest topics (either to write about or to read). The best thing about this novella is that for the longest time, Gretel and, alongside her, the reader have no idea what’s really going on. What’s true, what comes from her mother’s delusion, what is paranoia and what could be PTSD. It’s unsettling but, by some miracle (or the author’s talent), it never brings you down. It could be bleak and depressing and instead is riveting and exciting.

Book Weaknesses
As I said, Gretel on Her Own is a peculiar story. It’s definitely not a weakness in my book but it won’t be for everyone.

Character Chemistry
The fairytale the author drew inspiration from is all about sweets and sugar and temptation. To describe Gretel’s attraction to Dorothea, she chose from the lexical field of baking. In her previous novel, Pyotra and the Wolf, the emphasis was on the sense of smell. While very present in this novella too, it’s nevertheless transcended by the sense of taste. The use of such basic senses (in a not-so-basic way), senses everyone will relate to, adds a layer that makes the chemistry feel almost intoxicating.

Heat Rating
🔥 🔥 🔥 

Wrap up
Elna Holst has a unique voice. Each of her stories is different but they’re all beautifully written.

4.5/5

Would you like to grab a copy?