Thursday, June 12, 2014

"Briar Rose" by Jane Yolen

This is a book that combines the ominous historical elements of the Holocaust with the whimsy of a fairy tale, without being drawn out or boring. I read this last year, and was unaware that people considered it of the Young Adult genre, mainly because the heroine is twenty three years old and is taking care of her
grandmother.

I was in the same position a year ago, living with my grandma who is elderly, along with my mother. My grandma is a gem of a person, and she has so much experience in life that boggles the mind: she was at the very first school shooting in America, she was raised on a farm and rode a horse or walked to school, and decided to be a nurse when it was highly controversial (young women looking after male bodies was a no-no at the time). While I was reading this book, I found the heroine immensely relatable due to that: she saw her grandmother as a person, even in her most senile of moments, which is how it should be. Not everyone has the experience of caring for grandparents, and so I decided to add my two cents: this book is incredibly accurate in its depictions of the elderly, and even the nursing homes- many are still like that today, despite our best efforts to make them home-like and sanitary.

The Plot:
Twenty-three year old Becca visits her grandmother more frequently than even her parents, leaving her sisters to scold her for it. Before her grandmother passes, she is insistent that Becca know she is Briar Rose and once lived in a castle, and wants Becca to find it. Becca promises her this after much coercion, and shortly after her grandmother passes, leaving a mysterious rose-carved box full of breadcrumbs (newspaper clippings, heirlooms, and photos) for her granddaughter to help find her past.

What is so unusual about this take of the Holocaust history is that the author makes it clear that not everyone who was sent to death camps was Jewish. Sure, the majority of people were of the Jewish faith, but there were also gay people, Romani people, communists, people who protested or thought freely, and people who were reported by their neighbors. A lot of Holocaust fiction may only briefly mention the other peoples who were sent to be slaughtered, but one of the key characters in this book isn't Jewish and was sent to a death camp, which you typically don't find in the genre.

Briar Rose is about finding a family's heritage, written in such a way that it makes you curious as to what might be your family's secrets and stories. Holocaust fiction never makes for a light read, but this book captures the essence of a fairy tale, along with its depth. After you read this book, you won't think of Sleeping Beauty in the same way again: the real Sleeping Beauty has a crown of red hair, and she just may be Becca's grandmother.

Rating: 4 of 5 stars for a "better than the actual fairy tale", historical fairy tale.


Content: Aspects of the Holocaust are always disturbing and violent, I advise ages 14+.


Page Count: 200 pages in my paperback edition

2 comments:

  1. I read Briar Rose a few years ago and remember loving it. Very nice review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Wendi! Glad you enjoyed it too.
      ~Litha

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