Saturday, August 26, 2006

Briar Rose - Jane Yolen [August/06]

I love fairy tale retellings, and this is a very creative way of retelling of Sleeping Beauty written for a young adult.

From the back of the book:

It is an old, old tale, the German story of BRIAR ROSE, the Sleeping Beauty. Now one of America's most celebrated writers tells it afresh, set this time in the forests patrolled by the German army during World War II. A tale of castles, of mists and thorns, of a beautiful sleeping princess, and an astonishing revelation of death and rebirth.

A tale that will leave you changed forever

The tale of BRIAR ROSE.

I saw this book at the book store the other day, and immediately had to buy it. It is part of The Fairy Tale Series, which was created by Terri Windling. Sadly, most of the books in this series are out-of-print, so I pick them up whenever I see them. I also own Tam Lin by Pamela Dean from this series, but I have not read it yet.

This is one of the most interesting fairy tale retellings I have read this year. As the front of the book states: "The Bright Tale of Sleeping Beauty, the dark tale of the Holocaust - Twined together in a story you will never forget." I was happy with this because fairy tale retellings and World War II are examples of things that I like to read about. Putting them together was a creative idea.

This is a young adult book, so it is very short, but in the 200 pages or so, a magnificant story is told. The novel is written with scenes taking place in the present, with flashback images where the grandmother of the main character, Becca, tells the story of Sleeping Beauty. Becca's grandmother, Gemma, is really the main character because this is her story. Little is known of Gemma's background before she came to the United States, all she tells her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren is the story of Briar Rose.

When Gemma dies, Becca gets a wooden box that holds clues to who her grandmother was in the past. With these clues in hand, Becca embarks on a mission to discover the identity of her grandmother and see if she really was a princess in Poland and lived a life like Sleeping Beauty. Traveling to Poland, Becca begins to put the pieces together, and as a result the reader can see where Gemma got the idea for her story and just how true it really was.

I strongly suggest this book, even if you just read it to seek the truth. Is the tale of Sleeping Beauty comparable to the story of this woman who lived in Poland at the time of the Holocaust? I warn you, I found Becca annoying at times, but in the end it is not really her story, she is just telling it.


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