Sunday, June 03, 2007

Briar Rose

Briar Rose

Jane Yolen

Date: 15 March, 2002   —   $6.99   —   Book

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Fiction, Fantasy

Sleeping Beauty and the Holocaust.

Say it again.

Sleeping Beauty and the Holocaust.

It sounds absurd, doesn't it? But Yolen, who has written many tales of the Holocaust, both fiction and non-, pulls this one off with aplomb as she tells the story of Becca, whose quest to find out where her Gemma (grandmother) actually came from is bound up with the old lady's telling of the tale of Briar Rose.

Except that the version that Gemma always told was different. The evil fairy was all in black, with big black boots and silver eagles on her hat. Once the princess is woken, the story continues on without the prince. And the princess is the only one who awakes; the rest sleep on into eternity.

It was her favorite story and her granddaughters' favorite story, but when she dies, they realize that it is all they really know of her, and that her life seemed to start when she came to America. Becca is determined to find out, as her grandmother's final wish seemed to be to ask her to track it down.

That quest takes her to the refugee camp where she first showed in America, to find out that she had not come before the war, as her family always thought. So Becca travels to Poland, to track down the source of Briar Rose, only to find out how true, and utterly non-fairy-tale, her Gemma's stories really were.

If you haven't gathered already, this is a must-read. Chances are that you'll learn a few things that you have never heard of, because Yolen went straight to the underbelly of the Holocaust, and turns a fairy tale into a shadow of long-lost horror, the horror that humanity is all too capable of.

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