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Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
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Briar Rose (1992)

by Jane Yolen

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Fairy Tale Series

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,146953,039 (3.99)219
  1. 40
    Deerskin by Robin McKinley (FutureMrsJoshGroban, MyriadBooks)
  2. 10
    Red as blood; or, tales from the Sisters Grimmer by Tanith Lee (MyriadBooks)
  3. 00
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: YA-geared fiction relating to the Holocaust
  4. 00
    Damned Strong Love: The True Story of Willi G. and Stefan K. : A Novel by Lutz van Dijk (Jenson_AKA_DL)
    Jenson_AKA_DL: Although one book is fiction and the other a true account there are many similarities between the story told in the latter part of "Briar Rose" and the whole story of "Damned Strong Love" for those who may be interested.
  5. 00
    The Seduction of Water by Carol Goodman (kraaivrouw)
  6. 00
    The Final Solution. A Story of Detection by Michael Chabon (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Two stories that intertwine characters from elsewhere with the Holocaust. Both are affecting in their own ways.
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» See also 219 mentions

English (94)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (95)
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
An installment in Terri Windling's "Fairy Tale Series."
This book is not actually a fairy tale or fantasy at all... it deals with a young woman searching for the truth about her grandmother's life. The grandmother had always been loving, but a little bit eccentric, and obsessed with the story of Sleeping Beauty, or Briar Rose. Her granddaughter, Becca, makes her a deathbed promise to 'find the castle,' which she interprets as a request to find out the truth of how the metaphor of Sleeping Beauty applied to her grandmother's life. Her research takes her to Poland, and the site of one of the Nazis' most horrific extermination camps.
Overall, this was a very good book, but I thought Becca's character was both just a little bit too saintly and too innocent.
Her sisters were treated rather harshly for essentially, being normal.
Also, Yolen's portrayal of Poland seemed to me to be a little bit out of date for 1992 - and as someone who loves old Europe, her portrayal of the country seemed somewhat uncharitable.
I preferred the parts of the book that had to do with the events of the 1940s much more - the narrator of that part of the story, Josef, was much more interesting to me.

Note: for anyone looking for a fantasy that weaves in a girl's WWII experiences, I just finished Lisa Goldstein's 'The Red Magician' (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1070643653) and would highly recommend it. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
This was a truly beautiful and moving tale of one granddaughter's search to better understand the history of her grandmother. It incorporates the tale of Sleeping Beauty in such a way that one is taken aback for a second and then applauds Yolen for doing something that most authors would simply be unable to do and that is breathe new life into this classical tale. She weaves her story in such a manner that you start to feel that you are actually on a journey with the characters to discover every single moment of Gemma's (the grandmother) life. This is a book I would recommend to anyone that wants a truly wonderful read. You will learn from this book about some of our actual history as the human race and you will be changed for the better as a result. ( )
  SoulFlower1981 | Jan 20, 2016 |
For all of her life, Becca has listened to her grandmother, Gemma, tell her own version of Sleeping Beauty. After Gemma dies, Becca realizes that the only thing she really knows about her is that she survived the Holocaust. While going through Gemma's things, the Becca finds clues to the mystery of Gemma's life which lead her to Poland, where she hopes to find out her grandmother's real name and where she came from.

I remember reading this book as a teenager and liking it, but rereading it now, I see just how much I missed. There are so many little details in Gemma's Sleeping Beauty story that are parallels to what happened in the Holocaust. Yolen did a fantastic job of juxtaposing history into a fairy tale. After I finished reading it, I wanted to go back and reread the whole thing again just to see what clues I missed along the way. I definitely recommend this book. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
Becca has heard her Gemma (grandmother) tell the story of Sleeping Beauty, also known as Briar Rose, since she was a small child. Now Gemma is near death in a nursing home and just before she dies she whispers to Becca "I am Briar Rose". Becca promises Gemma that she will find the truth of the fairy tale. After the funeral Becca finds a box of Gemma's that has newspaper clippings, documents and photos from the 1940's. Becca follows the trail of these items to Poland and the horror stories of a place called Chelmno where thousands of Jewish people were killed during the war.
All of the places Becca during this book are real and the stories are very difficult to read because you know they are based on historical fact. It was an interesting interweaving of a fairy tale and real life tragedy. ( )
  Ellen_R | Jan 15, 2016 |
Not since Bitter Greens and Deathless have I read a fairy-tale retelling that truly embraced the power of historical context. I think one of the best types of retellings understands that fairy tales were not written (or read) in a vacuum. Much like horror stories, fairy tales have always explored the tellers' fears and desires, and often subverted mainstream societal norms and constraints. By choosing to blend history (whether real or imagined) with fairy tale, the retelling gains a quasi-realism and authenticity that both enthralls and educates. Maybe even inspires the reader to search out non-fiction based on actual people, places and events.

Having said that, the fairy tale in Yolen's book was not being retold as much as it was being used as the catalyst for a granddaughter's research into her grandmother's history, a past her Gemma never spoke directly about. She would instead tell her three granddaughters the tale of Sleeping Beauty. And at the end of her life, their Gemma began telling them that she was Sleeping Beauty, that it was her story. Of course, most of the family thought her senile, possibly demented. But with her dying breath Gemma begged her youngest (and favorite) granddaughter, Becca, to find "the castle." When Becca promised she would, the quest for Gemma's true story was underway.

Be warned: If you're looking for a story along the same lines as Sleeping Beauty by Jane Yolen or Princess Sonora by Gail Carson Levine, Briar Rose is not the book for you. Yolen went dark, we're talking pitch black, with her retelling of this well-known tale of Sleeping Beauty. What else would a reader expect when the jacket blurb includes the word Holocaust? How could anyone actually expect anything less than brutal and heartbreaking? My advice to anyone looking for fluffy fairy tales: skip this book. However, if you're looking for a mix of historical fiction and fairy tale, or an exploration into how fairy tales and stories (or fiction in general) might be used by someone to cope with tragedy, read this book!

4.5 stars

In response to reviews mentioning the "graphic" homosexuality in Briar Rose and its being "inappropriate" for young readers:

Seriously?!! I was shocked at the multiple reviews I read that condemned this book for its inclusion of homosexuality. Were readers unaware of the fact that homosexuals were also persecuted in the Holocaust? (Or throughout history?) I did not remember reading anything "graphic" in Briar Rose, so I went back and re-read Josef's story.

First, though, reviewers commented on Becca having a lesbian friend. That's it. Just having a lesbian friend was offensive to those reviewers.

Second, Josef Potocki's part of the story, "Castle," which reviewers said had "graphic" descriptions of the character's "promiscuity" and gay sex. There were brief references to losing his virtue in college, to being in his lover's arms. I counted three lovers over a span of several years, perhaps even a decade.

Here's the only "graphic" description I found. Josef was talking about his lover, a Viennese politician, "They made love during Hitler's victory speech, a horrible, angry, passionate thrusting, that left Josef bruised and somewhat stunned. He had planned to have a long talk with his lover about being more gentle the next morning. But when he woke, he found the man dead in the marble bath, his wrists still bleeding soft red lines into the tub (135)."

One reviewer even commented they didn't like that there was a homosexual priest, which made me laugh because that reviewer obviously did not pay attention enough to know that Josef was not a priest. He was a friend of Father Stashu, the priest at the church in present day Chelmno. I was able to easily glean that information during my first reading.

I was saddened to read those people's reviews. It breaks my heart for those reviewers to hold so much hate in their hearts. Yet their ignorance and intolerance reminded me that we're still a long way away from the world I dream of, one in which everyone is allowed the freedom to be who they are and one in which differences are celebrated instead of persecuted.
( )
1 vote flying_monkeys | Dec 17, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jane Yolenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Canty,ThomasCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Elwell, TristanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nolte, UlrikeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Windling, TerriCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"...(B)oth the oral and the literary forms of the fairy tale are grounded in history: they emanate from specific struggles to humanize bestial and barbaric forces, which have terrorized our minds and communities in concrete ways, threatening to destroy free will and human compassion. The fairy tale sets out to conquer this concrete terror through metaphors." --Jack Snipes, "Spells of Enchantment"
Dedication
For Charles and MaryAnn De Lint
and Susan Swartz - Just Because

With Special Thanks to Barbara Diamond Goldin, Staszek Radosh, Linda Mannheim, Betsy Pucci, Peter Gherlone, Mary Teifke, Alissa Gehan, Susan Landau, and Scott Scanlon for their research help. Any mistakes made in the presentation of that material are mine alone.
First words
"Gemma, tell your story again," Shana begged, putting her arms around her grandmother and breathing in that special smell of talcum and lemon that seemed to belong only to her.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765342308, Mass Market Paperback)

A powerful retelling of Sleeping Beauty that is "heartbreaking and heartwarming."

An American Library Association "100 Best Books for Teens"
An American Library Association "Best Books for Young Adults"

Ever since she was a child, Rebecca has been enchanted by her grandmother Gemma's stories about Briar Rose. But a promise Rebecca makes to her dying grandmother will lead her on a remarkable journey to uncover the truth of Gemma's astonishing claim: I am Briar Rose. A journey that will lead her to unspeakable brutality and horror. But also to redemption and hope.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:22 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The tale of Sleeping Beauty and the dark tale of the Holocaust twined together in a story of darkness and redemption.

» see all 2 descriptions

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