Yolen, Jane. Briar Rose. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2002.
Don’t let this book fool you. It may be young adult. It may be a quick read, but the subject matter and the crafty way in which it was written is absolutely brilliant. On her deathbed, Grandma “Gemma” makes youngest granddaughter, Becca, promise to learn the story of Gemma’s past. She claims to be the real Briar Rose. Along with her two older sisters, Becca has heard the fairy tale of Briar Rose/Sleeping Beauty all her life. It’s the only bedtime story Gemma would ever tell. Now Becca believes there is some similarities between the princess and her very own grandmother. Could Gemma really be Sleeping Beauty? Keeping the promise she made to her grandmother and with the help of a journalist friend, Becca sets out to uncover the mystery. The clues take her to Poland, specifically Chelmno, Hitler’s extermination camp during the Holocaust. Becca meets Josef Potacki and the pieces fall into place. Woven throughout Becca’s story is Gemma’s bedtime story and Josef’s story of survival. The present and past mesh together to tell a deeply moving tale of courage and love.
Quote that grabbed me, “It was hard not to be sacrificed when the other man was the one in power” (p 173).
My only gripe? The brand name dropping to indicate one of the sister’s wealth. Vuitton. Mercedes. Ferragamo. The sisters themselves factored so little in the story it would have suffice to say the mink coat wearing one was extremely wealthy and couldn’t be bothered with her grandmother’s mystery.
As an aside, There was a part in Briar Rose where I was reminded of Dave Matthews, “A hundred years is forever when you’re just a little kid.” See if you can find that place in the book.
Reason read: this was thrown on the August list because I needed something short to take to Colorado with me, but ended up reading it over the weekend…just before leaving! Read in honor of a Polish Music Festival that takes place in August.
Author fact: I don’t know where to begin with Ms. Yolen. Right away, I could tell she knew my part of the world (the mention of Cabot Street in Holyoke was the first clue but Jessie’s House, School Street, and the Polish Club were dead give aways). But, once I visited her website I was blown away. She has won too many award to mention here. Just visit her site for yourself.
Book trivia: Briar Rose won the Mythopoeic Society Fantasy Award and was nominated for a Nebula in 1993.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust to Go in the chapter called “Polish Up Your Polish” (p 183).