Thursday, April 8, 2010

Review: Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Briar Rose
by Jane Yolen
Fairy Tale
239 pages
published: 1988
3 of 5 stars

Ever since she was a child, Rebecca has been enchanted by her grandmother Gemma’s stories about Briar Rose. But a promise Rebecca makes to her dying grandmother will lead her on a remarkable journey to uncover the truth of Gemma’s astonishing claim: I am Briar Rose. A journey that will lead her to unspeakable brutality and horror. But also to redemption and hope. - from Goodreads.

Briar Rose is a fascinating, heart-wrenching novel. I was immediately caught up in the mystery of Rebecca's grandmother's life, and how she could possibly be Briar Rose. I loved searching through the old documents and momentos, I thrilled at the journey through Poland, and I scrambled to make all the pieces fit together. And they did fit together - but not in any way I could have guessed beforehand. And even the slight modern-day love story was sweet and engaging. The ending was as satisfying as it could be.

Though rather than leaving me crushed about an individual's war story, as war books often do, this book left me crushed by the horror that is our world. But if we do not understand what happened, how can we prevent it from ever happening again?

*Spoiler Alert (at least a bit of a spoiler)*
I would not recommend this book lightly. First, though it is billed as YA, I don't see how it could be. The protagonist is 23 (I think) and her love interest 35, both with jobs and grownup responsibilities. Is this a problem? Not for me!! But I doubt an average15 year old would be drawn in to experiences so outside their own. Second, there was a homosexual sex scene that was more descriptive than I was prepared for. Third, and most important, the subject matter (of mass killings, burials, bodies...) was brutal and horrific. And true. Not just any kid can handle that.

I will not ever forget this story. I think it worthwhile for anyone old enough to read it. It was amazing to see a fairy tale adapted to recent history.


  1. Oh! This sounds very exciting! My kind of book! No fairy tale is lovely and nice, so it's only fitting that this reworking shouldn't be. Fairy tales are grim and horrible things!

    Is it a well written book? If so, it's getting added to my list asap! I'm keen! Thanks for the heads up!

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  3. Yes, the writing was good. It wasn't so much so that it was noticeable really. It didn't get in the way of the story or call attention to itself. Give it a try! It is, at least, unforgettable. :)

  4. Wheee~ I'm excited now! Thanks again for the review!

    (and sorry about the double comment post - oops)

  5. This sounds awesome.

    I found your blog through the blog hop and must tell you: your blog is truly beautiful!
    I am SO impressed!
    What a gorgeous header.
    I love it!

    Tales of :)

  6. Ah, I love this book. But I agree with you - it is in no way 'light' or simple. I read it at age 16 and really adored it. I was reading heavy, hard books in history and English, and this one, though dark in tone, has little seeds of hope which make YA what it is as a genre.

    That said, I think your warning about the content is a bit of a spoiler. Maybe you meant it to be that way - but I thought I'd mention it. *grin* Great review!

  7. Well, I probably won't ever be old enough for this book. :) Have a great weekend!

  8. I love the cover for this one. so pretty!

  9. I also loved this book, which I read years ago. Jane Yolen successfully combines realism and fairy tale elements. Another book by Jane Yolen that deals with the Holocaust is The Devil's Arithmetic -- another YA book.

  10. I absolutely love this book but cannot remember the homosexual scene to save my life! I read it many many years ago. Looks like I'm in need of a re-read!

  11. What a great review! Most original fairy tales have a darkness to them; but from the content of this post Briar Rose seems almost too dark/mature for younger readers. Although for an older audience, Briar Rose looks like a fascinating read.

  12. I read this one recently and felt the same way as you about the content. It's not that I feel it should be restricted from younger readers, but I just didn't get why it's not considered an adult novel since it's about an adult.