Friday, 27 July 2012
Review: Briar Rose
Author: Jane Yolen
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication Date: August 31st 1988
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fairy Tale Retellings
Becca’s grandmother, Gemma, has always been a mystery to her family. While they know she left Europe after World War II for the United States, they don’t even know her birth name or who Becca’s grandfather was. The one thing Gemma does talk about from her old life is the story of Sleeping Beauty. After Gemma’s death, Becca finds herself wanting answers about her family’s past. Old mementos lead Becca to Chelmo, a concentration camp in Poland. As she searches for the pieces of Gemma’s past, Becca tries to find the connection to the story she loved so much. Becca has heard about Briar Rose and the dark fairy’s curse so many times she knows the story by heart. As she uncovers the story of the past, she learns that life isn’t a fairy tale.
This book was not what I was expecting. I’ve read one other book by Jane Yolen called Armageddon Summer, which she co-wrote with Bruce Coville. I was sort of expecting something closer to The Book Thief with a fairy tale twist. However, this isn’t exactly a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Instead, it’s about a twenty-three year old journalist who goes looking for answers about her recently deceased Jewish grandmother. On her deathbed, the old woman says that the story is really about her. Becca uses the few clues she has to piece together some of the details of her grandmother’s past, going as far as Poland for answers. There were a lot of flaws in this book, but its greatest strength was the emotional effect it has after reading it. While actually reading it wasn’t enjoyable, after I finished I felt like the overall effect worked. What made it a not very enjoyable read was the fact that the story was slow moving and I felt detached from the lifeless characters. However, I did like how the story of Sleeping Beauty was incorporated into Briar Rose and how things were resolved. Like any Holocaust story, this isn’t a light book you can read looking for entertainment. Briar Rose was definitely well researched and original, full of emotion and the worst parts of the 20th century.
“Stories," he'd said, his voice low and almost husky, "we are made up of stories. And even the one's that seem the most like lies can be our deepest hidden truths.”