|Jane Yolen: Briar Rose|
Starscape: A Tom Doherty Associates Book (Mass Market Paperback), ISBN
Jane Yolen's Briar Rose begins with a strange version of the tale of the Sleeping Beauty in the Wood. While sisters Sylvia and Shana become bored with hearing their Polish Grandma Gemma's favorite story again and again, young Becca never tires of it. Years later, on her deathbed, Gemma admits that the tale of Sleeping Beauty tells the story of her own mysterious past. No one believes her -- except Becca.
With only a small box of Gemma's worldly possessions (a ring, incomplete immigration forms, pictures and news clippings), Becca sets off to find Gemma's castle. Assisted by her boss at the newspaper, Becca begins her research at a refugee camp at Fort Oswego, N.Y. There, Becca connects Gemma with Ksiezniczka, the Polish name for princess. But why? Becca's continued search brings her back to World War II Poland and Chelmno, an extermination camp with no survivors.
At this point, a compelling and excellent book gets even better. Now familiar with Gemma's version of the fairy tale, the reader hears Joseph Potocki's version of the truth. The narrative affords such pure insight, such frightening facts and such a compelling story that will keep the reader turning pages obsessively until the end.
Like a rose, this beautiful piece of fiction wears barbs that pinch and pierce (the brutal history of the Holocaust, and Nazi persecution of Jews, gypsies and homosexuals). However, Yolen deals the painful content in a realistic and passionate way. Contrary to other reviewers, I had no problem with the homosexual content, which proved both enlightening and tastefully executed.
A work of historical fiction that combines the history of the Holocaust with the fantasy of a fairy tale, Briar Rose provides an enlightening and fantastic reading experience. In addition to discovering a fabulous new story beneath an old favorite, I uncovered an outstanding example of magical realist fiction, where boundaries between reality and fantasy prove so thin that truth lies on both sides of the story. Extraordinary and highly recommended!
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