Title: Briar Rose
Author: Jane Yolen
Published: August 15, 1992
Rating: 5/5 stars
An American Library Association “100 Best Books for Teens”
An American Library Association “Best Books for Young Adults”
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.
I’d be the first to admit that I’ve never really particularly liked historical fiction. I’ve always been partial to dragons, magic and duels and robots, other worlds and aliens, never historical fiction. I had some bad experiences with the genre when I was younger, Johnny Tremain and I did not get along, and the only historical fiction I’ve really ever read has included magic of some kind. So when I went up to the counter at the library and asked for some good historical fiction recommendations, I was expecting the worst. But instead I got something that I’m sure I’ll remember for a long time and recommend to scores and scores of people.
The main character Rebecca, known mostly as Becca, grew up with two older sisters, two parents and one mysterious grandmother known only as Gemma. It was really interesting to learn about both women, and their connections to various people. To Becca, her grandmother’s repetive telling of Sleeping Beauty and Briar Rose, was a magical and enjoyable story that defined her grandmother. But to Gemma, it was her life and she could not be persuaded differently no matter how many times her various family members tried. She lived in a castle. Her name was Briar Rose and she was the only one that the prince woke up from a sleep that would have lasted a hundred years.
It’s a very creepy, and lasting story about WWII and a family’s tragic history. But somehow it manages to be at times, light and uplifting through its unlikely events. I highly recommend it to both lovers of historical fiction and those who aren’t so sure. Maybe it will change your mind about the genre like it did for me.