Saturday, November 6, 2010
Briar Rose - Jane Yolen 
Rebecca and her two older sisters grew up listening to their grandmother Gemma's unique version of Sleeping Beauty, where she was the princess in the castle. That was twenty-odd years ago, and Rebecca's sisters have "stopped believing fairy tales" and moved on and away. When a dying Gemma charges Rebecca with finding her castle, her sisters urge her not to go chasing an old woman's delusions. However, Rebecca has never stopped believing in Sleeping Beauty, and she sets out on a journey that takes her from North America to Poland and from myth to reality to solve the mystery of Gemma's past.
Briar Rose is part of the "Fairy Tale Series" where noted fantasists rewrite well-known fairy tales with a new twist. In this case, Yolen has written a book that deftly intertwines the story of Briar Rose and the horror of the Holocaust. The reader is treated to Gemma's version of Sleeping Beauty in chunks, with a little more of it revealed every other chapter, thus juxtaposing the reality of Rebecca's search and the fantasy that is Gemma's story. Yolen hints pretty early on that Gemma's version of the story is merely a metaphor for surviving the Holocaust, after which it's no hard task for the reader to fill in what is representing what in the story. This doesn't serve to ruin the book in any way however, in fact, it allows the reader to focus on and appreciate Ms. Yolen's truly lovely writing. Briar Rose does have a drawback, if only because what was happening was sometimes so thrilling that it overtook my caring about the characters at times.
All in all, a very enjoyable read (and quick, too if you're pressed for time), though perhaps a bit more skewed towards female audiences than the other books that have been reviewed on this blog. Yes, there are no less than two romantic subplots running, but don't let that scare you off, boys! (Though I have on good authority that y'all secretly love romantic subplots, too! Whew, that hits my sexist stereotype quota for the week...) But if you need any excuse, let this review be it!
Other books in the Fairy Tale Series. Or if you're looking for something shorter (you busy busy person you!), Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow edit a series of books filled with short stories that have the same theme. Snow White, Blood Red is the first in that series, but beware it might be out of print! Other books to recommend are other ones by Jane Yolen (who has written other Nebula nominees so you'll be seeing more of her soon!) and, since Briar Rose is technically a Young Adult novel, books by Dianna Wynne Jones would do nicely, especially Howl's Moving Castle or her adult-oriented books, notably Fire and Hemlock.
Do read! Rebecca grew up hearing grandmother Gemma claim she was Sleeping Beauty in the Wood, and when she dies, Rebecca sets out to solve the mystery of her grandmother's unknown past in Poland.
Aha! In an effort to keep up with Daniel's prolific posting, I have posted my own review (soon to be reviewS, with an 's'!!) I will not be outdone! I will, by sheer coincidence, be reviewing books that are probably considered to be more "female oriented" in my next couple posts, (though I bet Daniel's feeling he's dodging multiple bullets on that note...) but that's okay because the females (and fantasists) must be represented, too! Though.. unless I'm quite mistaken, I think Daniel's actually more well-read in fantasy than I am.... Sad! =[