Monday, April 28, 2008

Briar Rose - Jane Yolen


Rating : 5.0/5
Number of Pages : 241
Reason for Reading : Mythopoeic Challenge, Once Upon a Time II Challenge, recommendation from Nymeth and I wanted to read more in the Fairy Tale series

Part of the Fairy Tale series created by Terri Windling which looks at the tale of Briar Rose and Sleeping Beauty set in the context of the Holocaust. Beck's grandmother, Gemma, dies in a nursing home and gets Becky to promise on her deathbed that she will not forget her story. Since Becky was a little girl, Gemma has always told her and her two older sisters Shana and Slyvia the tale of Briar Rose with a few inconsistencies from the more well known version. She always claimed to be Briar Rose, the only one the Prince woke up after the mist came down and caused everyone to fall asleep.

After Gemma dies Becky starts to investigate her story. She finds a wooden box in the nursing home engraved with a rose and barbs on the lid which contains a collection of photos, newspaper clippings and other confusing forms. It turns out they know even less about Gemma than they thought, Becky's mother Eve is not even sure of her mothers real name. Her investigations lead her to Poland to chase down her grandmothers nickname "Ksiezniczka" which means Princess at a German extinction camp named Chelmno.

It seems wrong to say this was a wonderful book that I completely fell in love with, but that's just how I feel. The writing swept me along and I sat down and this this tale straight through. It alternates between a section of Gemma telling her version of Briar Rose which becomes explained throughout the main story and Beck's story. The middle section contains the story of the Prince with his part in Gemma's life. I enjoyed the little touches, like that Becky reads "Beauty" by Robin McKinley when she is feeling down and I am really looking forward to reading it soon.

It is such a sad tale, but then life is never quite like a fairy tale. It is disgusting what people do to each other on the basis of race, religion and sexual preference to name a few. The worst of it is that the horrible parts are true, or at least based on truth and similar attrocities are going on every day somewhere around the world. It was so moving and managed to inset happier images, there is still a note of survival and enduring. Heros become so where least expected.

11 comments:

Nymeth said...

I know exactly what you mean. It seems almost wrong to fall in love with this book given the subject matter, but that was just how I felt. It's so moving and sad and horrifying and yet hopeful. And so beautifully written.

I didn't remember that Becky read Beauty! I read this one long before Beauty and I had forgotten. That's such a nice touch.

This is one of my favourite books and I'm glad you loved it as well!

Carl V. said...

This is a story that is up there on my list of 'want to read's. I love the cover on this one. The art almost looks like the style of James Jean's work.

samantha.1020 said...

This sounds really good. Thanks for the review!!

Trish said...

Sounds like such a beautiful and moving tale--Nymeth recommended this one to me a few months ago and I forgot about it (oops!), but I'm going to make sure to add it to my wishlist.

Robin said...

It really was an amazing book. I'm so glad you liked it. It made me a Jane Yolen fan forever!

Melody said...

This will goes to my wishlist! Thanks for the review, Rhinoa.

Kim L said...

This was such a powerful book! I bought it a long time ago based on the fact I like fairy-tale retellings. At the time I didn't even know it was about the Holocaust. It completely blew me away! Jane Yolen is a very talented writer.

Chris said...

This book sounds incredible. I'm definitely getting this on my next book buying spree. I've added it to my Bookmooch list, but if no one lists it there soon I'll just buy it. Loved your review. I love fairy tale retellings and it sounds like Yolen has put a really nice twist on this one and made it quite powerful. I haven't read anything by her either..looking forward to it.

Marg said...

I've added this to my TBR list as well! Thanks Rhinoa.

chatteringbee said...

Hi Rhinoa,
I found your blog through Weekly Geeks!
This book sounds absolutely incredible. I still have to read a few books for the Twisted Fairy Tale Challenge so I'll definitely look this book up.

Darla D said...

I am so glad you enjoyed this book, Rhinoa - it is one of my absolute favorites. Jane Yolen is an amazing writer, and I loved the way she used the fairy tale theme to tell this incredibly moving story.