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Briar Rose Mass Market Paperback – March 15, 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 228 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Windling's Fairy Tale series has produced several excellent fantasy novels inspired by classic fairy tales. This is one of the series's most ambitious efforts, and only a writer as good as Yolen ( Sister Light, Sister Dark ) could bring it off. Yolen takes the story of Briar Rose (commonly known as Sleeping Beauty) and links it to the Holocaust--a far-from-obvious connection that she makes perfectly convincing. Rebecca Berlin, a young woman who has grown up hearing her grandmother Gemma tell an unusual and frightening version of the Sleeping Beauty legend, realizes when Gemma dies that the fairy tale offers one of the very few clues she has to her grandmother's past. To discover the facts behind Gemma's story, Rebecca travels to Poland, the setting for the book's most engrossing scenes and its most interesting, best-developed characters. By interpolating Gemma's vivid and imaginative story into the larger narrative, Yolen has created an engrossing novel. She handles a difficult subject with finesse in a book that should be required reading for anyone who is tempted to dismiss fantasy as a frivolous genre.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

The latest in the Fairy Tales series begins with a provocative premise: retelling the story of Sleeping Beauty as a Holocaust memoir. Rebecca Berlin (Becca), the sweet young heroine, fondly recalls the odd version of Sleeping Beauty that her grandmother (Gemma) often told her and her sisters. Although Gemma always identified strongly with Briar Rose, the sleeping princess, no one had thought it anything but a bedtime story--but when a mysterious box of clippings and photos turns up after Gemma's death, hinting that the accepted version of Gemma's origins is untrue, Becca begins tracing the real story, which bears striking resemblances to Gemma's fairy tale. The trail finally leads Becca to the site of an extermination camp in Poland.... The idea has lots of potential, but Yolen's thin novel fails to integrate the material smoothly. The first half has little tension, since the Holocaust connection is pretty obvious; things pick up once Becca travels to Poland, and the narrative of Gemma's wartime experiences is riveting and moving--but it's all told by a third party at the end of the book; Becca doesn't so much solve the mystery as find a narrator to tell her the story. Meanwhile, overwrought emotions and hackneyed images (``his eyes were so blue she felt cut by them, as if they were ice'') don't help, and Becca's relentless goody-goodiness grows more than a little annoying. Prolific YA and children's writer Yolen (White Jenna, 1989, etc.) had a good idea here, but didn't follow through. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Teen; Reissue edition (March 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765342308
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765342300
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 1.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (228 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Weiner on December 6, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I tend to disagree with the reviewers who say this book is unsuitable for readers under 14. I was 9 or 10 when I first read it 15 years ago and though I may not have grasped everything in it with quite the same degree of understanding that I bring to it nowadays, it certainly wasn't unsuitable. Children are far more capable of handling dark subject matter than most adults will admit. As for the 'homosexual themes' I've seen some reviewers mention... The Nazis persecuted homosexuals nearly as zealously as they persecuted the Jews. This is historical fact, and one that tends to be overlooked. Kudos to Jane Yolen for addressing it. I wouldn't necessarily hand this book to a child under 10, but it's definitely appropriate for 6th graders and up.

As for the book itself, Yolen does a lovely job of interweaving past and present, fairy tale and reality. "Gemma's" version of Briar Rose has long been one of my favorite modern retellings. There are some issues with the book--the shallowness of the minor characters, the inordinate convenience of Josef Potocki's appearance in the story--but these are easily brushed aside due to the cruel beauty of the fairy tale, which is indisputably the highlight of the novel. The only major problem is this:

Granted, the characters believed Gemma came to the US before the war. But. Are we truly to believe that a Jewish family descended from an Eastern European immigrant never made the connection between the details in Gemma's unique telling of Briar Rose and the Nazis? Big black boots, shiny silver eagles, deadly "mist", and no one but the heroine lives happily ever after, yet none of them picked up on the Nazi references?
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This was my first book by Yolen. I had heard great things about her, especially about this book and given my recent fascination with fairy tales I thought I would give it a try. It was a quick read, easily because it was fascinating and very hard to put down. Ultimately, it left me feeling very, very sad, bordering on devastation yet...hopeful somehow. Another book I must buy.

Briar Rose takes the classic fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty and links it to the Holocaust. Rebecca, the youngest of her grandmother Gemma's granddaughters, has grown up listening to Gemma's rendition of Sleeping Beauty. Upon Gemma's death, Rebecca realizes that the story is one of the few clues to Gemma's past, a past that Gemma makes her swear on her deathbed to discover. Her search carries her to Poland and into the heart of the horrors of the Holocaust.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Gemma's last wish is that grand-daughter Becca find the castle; her dying words are that she is Briar Rose. However, the truth is entangled in the single fairy tale that Gemma tells her three grand-daughters throughout their lives. The tale she tells is not standard fare. This tale is elusive. What does it mean that Gemma is Briar Rose? How could a castle be part of Gemma's past?

The French gave us the word plot through "plait," which refers to the unraveling the reader must do as she reads. Imagine a plait of cloth lying horizontally with the loose part on the left (reading occurs left to right) as a closed book. Open the book, read and unravel, read and unravel. This is the task Gemma has given Becca: Unravel the past. The family knows nothing of Gemma's past. Her only clue is the fairy tale: Briar Rose, a new telling of Sleeping Beauty.

The audience knows the power of fairy tales to hide universal truths, that sometimes an external force, in the form of a handsome prince, defeats evil characters and their spells, and sometimes the inner power of the character is the impetus. Jane Yolen's brilliant retelling of Sleeping Beauty through Gemma's tale, is one novel in the Fairy Tales series begun by Terry Windling, in which writers retell a fairy tale in a modern setting. In this tale is hidden the evil of the Holocaust in one hideous castle run by Nazis, and one princess, Briar Rose, awakened by the power of a kiss. No more than that will I tell.

Yolen employs a favorite literary device in Gemma's telling of the tale. In the beginning chapters the reader is supposedly given the finished plait of the story.
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Format: Library Binding
I read this book back in seventh grade. I am now a freshman in college and i must say that to this day- it is my all time favorite book. The way that Jane Yolen is able to take the story of the holocaust and intertwine it with the fairy tale of briar rose is stunning! The book leaves you on the edge of your seat and the ending leaves you breathless! I highly reccomend this book to young and old alike! Happy reading!
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Format: Turtleback
I know that many people consider this a fantasy. I, however, believe it is simply someone taking these two stories, one harrowing and terrifying, the other beautiful and peaceful, and creating a wonderful tale of a family and a past. Definitely worth reading!
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