Briar Rose

by Jane Yolen
read May 2009

Wow…I couldn’t put this book down! I would recommend that everyone briar_roseignore the Introduction by Terri Winding, at least until after you read the whole story. I read it first and I ended up stopping for an entire day before I picked the book back up again. It was boring in comparison with the rest of the book.

Once I started reading what Jane Yolen wrote, I was hooked.  The chapters alternate between the past and present, much the way Christina Meldrum’s Madapple does.  You get a peek at the past and then a look at the present and the story ties together as you turn the pages.  I have to say, I really enjoy this writing style.

Becca Berlin is the granddaughter of a mysterious woman.  As a child, she and her sisters called her Gemma and the name stuck.  Know one knew what her true name was.  Gemma was a story-teller, but she loved to tell one story most of all Sleeping Beauty.  Her family just thought of her as a bit ‘obsessive’ over the story until her death-bed confession to Becca, “I am Briar Rose.”

Becca promises her grandmother she will find the truth, but where does she start?  Her grandmother was so secretive, no one knew where to start.  A box of her grandmother’s things turns up.  Becca goes on a quest to find out where her grandmother came from and who she really was.

This retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story is masterfully done.  I would never have put the Holocaust and Sleeping Beauty together.  I have been fond of the new spin on fairy tales lately.  Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Mirror Mirror, Shannon Hale’s Rapunzel’s Revenge, among others.  Terry Windling has published a group of novels called The Fairy Tale Series.  In this collection is this novel, The Sun, the Moon and the Starsby Steven Brust (1988), Jack of Kinrowan (Jack the Giant Killer along with Drink Down the Moon) by Charles de Lint (1987), The Nightingaleby Kara Dalkey (1988), Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia Wrede (1989), Tam Lim by Pamela Dean (1991), White as Snow by Tanith Lee(2000), and Fitcher’s Brides by Gregory Frost (2002).  I would put links in for you, but let’s be honest, I’m far too lazy to insert that many links. (Hey…I’m honest with myself)

One last thing, I know the cover I posted is not the original (it’s pretty cool too) but I LOVE this cover.  Especially once you know about the Holocaust theme to it.  The barbed wire into the rose thorns…beautiful.  Usually I’m the opposite.  I think covers never do the books justice. (Hence you can’t judge a book by it’s cover)



Themes: death, holocaust, fairy tales

Characters: Rebecca (Becca) Berlin, Sylvia Berlin, Shana Berlin, Stan, Gemma

Setting: Modern Day America and 1940’s Poland

Topic: Becca Berlin is on a mission to find truth in her dying grandmother’s words, “I am Briar Rose.”  It leads her on a mission where no one expected. 

Young Adult, paperback 241 pages

ISBN 0765342308


~ by jennifermorrill on May 6, 2009.

3 Responses to “Briar Rose”

  1. I’ve heard great things about this book. Wonderful review!

  2. Great review Jenn! I really liked this book too. But hey, I like anything that has to do with WWII. This book cover is the one that I also read from. I’m not even sure I know what the others look like.

  3. Why thank you. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did. I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know more! What horrors our pasts hold.

    The other covers have a fence of thorns/roses with a woman climbing over it. This one is better. I think it’s fabulous.

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