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Briar Rose (the Fairy Tale) (Experientia Supplementum) Mass Market Paperback – 15 Nov 1993
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Rewrites the old German folktale, Sleeping Beauty, into a story about the ramifications of the Holocaust.
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Not for adults. At least not this adult. The writing is very basic, the characters are quite simplistic, even those who are supposed to have suffered & harbor secrets &/or depths unknown.
I didn't really care for it, but can see that it might have some value in introducing literature about the Holocaust to young readers. I would encourage my daughter to read this while quite young -- say at 13. However, there are many other books, young adult/junior lit, that are much better at introducing the subject matter.
In short-brilliant. Go get it :)
Although we realise fairly early on that the story will link back to the Holocaust, it's still shocking to be reminded of the bare facts of the era. Yolen handles this well, making us feel the horror, but without giving you nightmares.
There's a careful understanding of human nature, both of the way the partisans dealt (or didn't deal) with their inability to make an impact, and also the inescapable fact that there were people who accepted and even approved of what was happening.
I like the way Yolen gives and ending that allows us to understand that a person can be happy even without the traditional 'happy ending'.
I'd definitely recommend this book, though I'm not sure that I'd want to read it twice - the story will linger in my mind for a long time.
The fairy-tale part is the narrator's grandmother's unique way of telling the tale of Briar Rose, or Sleeping Beauty as we know it better. It becomes clear that her version is in some way autobiographical, that she has composed her version of the tale around the horrors that she experienced. As elements of the story are unearthed through a trail through eastern Europe, the pieces slowly fall into place. The story even has a genuine charming Prince - although he does not marry the "princess" (far from it!)
Briar Rose moves through several layers of storytelling technique. The chapters alternate between episodes of Becca's search for Gemma's past and lyrical "memories" of Gemma telling the story of Briar Rose. Near the end of the novel, Becca's travels enfold an account of the lives of several partisans in the German forests.
Yet it is because of this resonating current that Becca's pilgrimage engages us as readers. For a moment, we almost become Becca. Despite whatever connections we may or may not have to this dark period in history, there is a part of us that is only able to comprehend the true enormity of such stories when they are hidden in depths of older tales, for these old tales exist in the dualities of light and dark, pain and joy, life and death.
Jane Yolen's Briar Rose speaks with unflinching and brutal honesty. It tells the truth - as much as fiction can. Yet that truth reveals one much deeper - the ability of people and stories to overcome and endure.
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