Jane Yolen produces a powerful and moving novel that deftly blends the legend of Sleeping Beauty with the historical tragedy of the Holocaust. To Rebecca, Sylvia, and Shana, “Briar Rose” was simply a bedtime story but in all reality, the story they grew up with was an actual event in Gemma’s life. 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 a striking resemblance to Gemma’s fairy tale. Becca then sets off on a journey to Europe to discover her grandmother’s true identity.
I felt this book was more for adults than for young adults. It was complicated and probably difficult for a young teen to follow. It had language that may not suitable for a young adult. Such as a line like, “Stan expertly braked and simultaneously turned the wheel slightly to the right. “Asshole!” he muttered.” (Jane Yolen, 67). It was a remarkable book. I usually don’t enjoy reading what I “have” to, but I truly adored this book. When I first started the book I wasn’t very enthused but once I read the first four chapters (for the second time) I started falling into the novel. I became so emotionally involved with the characters and the story that I had to finish it. It made me recall everything I had learned in history class about the Holocaust.
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At that time it did not seem to “click”. Now that I read this story and all of its frightful horrors it all comes rushing back. Now that I think about it, this is actually a great book for young adults to read. It teaches them a little about the holocaust and the terrible tragedies that had occurred. It even teaches them a bit about homosexuality. Though the gays were not treated very well in Yolen’s novel. I loved the detail that Yolen put into “Briar Rose”. It felt like I was actually there, staring down at the mountain of bodies below. Smelling the putrid smell of week-old rotting corpses. Sleeping in a trench covered with branches and leaves, with nine to thirteen other escapees, aching for a shower and food in my stomach.
I felt for the poor, vulnerable prisoners who were forced to strip and roll in the freezing cold snow, while the drunken guards laughed and ridiculed them. Although it was a heart-breaking book I would highly recommend this book to everyone. It’s amazing how the author blended a tale and a horrible story together. It somehow made the story less dreadful than it really is. This book should be read and reread because the more you read it the more you come to understand the appalling events of the Holocaust. “Briar Rose will surely give the reader a tale to remember.