BRIAR ROSE by Jane Yolen


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The latest in the Fairy Tales series begins with a provocative premise: retelling the story of Sleeping Beauty as a Holocaust memoir. Rebecca Berlin (Becca), the sweet young heroine, fondly recalls the odd version of Sleeping Beauty that her grandmother (Gemma) often told her and her sisters. 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 striking resemblances to Gemma's fairy tale. The trail finally leads Becca to the site of an extermination camp in Poland.... The idea has lots of potential, but Yolen's thin novel fails to integrate the material smoothly. The first half has little tension, since the Holocaust connection is pretty obvious; things pick up once Becca travels to Poland, and the narrative of Gemma's wartime experiences is riveting and moving--but it's all told by a third party at the end of the book; Becca doesn't so much solve the mystery as find a narrator to tell her the story. Meanwhile, overwrought emotions and hackneyed images ("his eyes were so blue she felt cut by them, as if they were ice") don't help, and Becca's relentless goody-goodiness grows more than a little annoying. Prolific YA and children's writer Yolen (White Jenna, 1989, etc.) had a good idea here, but didn't follow through.
Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0765342308
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1992


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