briar rose

Thursday, August 20, 2009 |
Alyce at At Home with Books has started a weekly tradition of revisiting past reading favorites and bringing them into the spotlight.


My pick this week: Briar Rose by Jane Yolen. This book was originally published as part of Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s Fairy Tales series – a project meant to unite some of the biggest names in fantasy and have them re-write the classic fairy tales for adults. The thought being that adults were the original audience for fairy tales, anyway, and a dark or different take on the traditional stories would provide something new for the genre. That was YEARS ago, and now (or maybe yesterday) it’s the next big thing to re-write classic fairy tales. The books in the series included Patricia C. Wrede’s Snow White and Rose Red (just re-released as a YA book, ironically enough) and Charles de Lint’s Jack of Kinrowan, among others. I started with those two and then decided to read Yolen’s take on the fable of the Sleeping Beauty.


I’ve been a fan of Yolen for a long time – she’s an immensely talented and prolific writer in the YA genre, and her writing (and that of a couple of other authors) helped introduce me to the world of fantasy. Plus I trust the editing of Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. Then throw in a fairy tale re-telling that mixes Sleeping Beauty (favorite!) and the Holocaust. WHAT?!, you say? Yes, I know…it sounds completely improbable and maybe un-doable. Only an author of Yolen’s caliber could pull it off. Evidence: it’s on the ALA’s 100 Best Books for Young Adults list, and I’ve seen it paired in lesson plans with Elie Wiesel’s Night.


When I first read Briar Rose I felt unsettled, anxious and out of my comfort zone. The book is powerful, hard-to-read (in the way that reading about true evil is difficult, not that it’s tough to understand), and disturbing. The story touched me and made me think about prejudice, intolerance, the nature of conviction, and the violence hidden in the human soul. It’s a good book; Yolen deftly handles a terrifying topic and gives the reader a chance to experience a time and a story that are often beyond comprehension.


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.

11 comments:

Lit and Life said...

I've never heard of these; what a great idea to rewrite the fairy tales which are inherently frightening!

Mandy said...

I TEWTally have been eyeballing this book! Your review has just bumped it up on my tbr pile! Thanks!

Jenners said...

I love the idea of this book!!!! And does she do those "How Do Dinosaurs Count to 10" books? Her name is so familiar and that is what I think I know her from. Wonderful post.

Sheila (bookjourney) said...

Love your post here and the book looks remarkable!

Blodeuedd said...

I loved this book I read by Datlow and Windling. The retellings are so good, I can't remember the authors there but this one was not in it. Good choice, must look it up

Nicole said...

Wow, this book sounds amazing! Great review! I absolultely love fairy tale twistings and re-tellings--this sounds right up my alley.

Lizzy said...

While I've read some of Jane Yolen's books, I've never heard of this one! It definitely sounds worth a read.

Jenny Girl said...

I've seen this book around, and was puzzled. Not anymore. I like books that make you think.

Daphne said...

this is a great idea! thanks so much for your lovely comment :)
http://xazddesign.com

Jenn M. said...

I read and reviewed this book a few months ago. I really liked it too. It was such an interesting spin on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. Who would have thought Sleeping Beauty + Holocaust = Good book?!?!

Alyce said...

I haven't heard of this book before, but I love fairy tale retellings, and this sounds fabulous! I've added it to my wish list.

Have you ever read Beauty by Sheri S. Tepper? It's a good retelling too.

Your pick also made me think of the Politically Correct Bedtime stories. They are completely irreverent and silly but fun.

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