In keeping with my love of fairy tales I picked up Briar Rose. The story of Sleeping Beauty has been one of my favorites, maily through the Disney version. It wasn't until reading the forward in Briar Rose that I learned that there have been many retellings of Sleeping Beauty. One of the versions has Beauty awoken as she's giving birth to a child. This book by Jane Yolen gives yet a more modern spin on the tale of the princess awoken by a kiss from her prince. Yolen creates a woman who truly believes that she is Briar Rose. She spends her entire life with this thought and regeals her granddaughters with the story of Sleeping Beauty. On her deathbed she makes her youngest granddaughter promise that she will find her castle in Germany. It takes the young woman on a search through old documents uncovering some dark secrets with the Holocaust and even a trip to visit modern day Poland. The story has one too many coincidences that make you wonder how believable it sounds (could she really show her grandmother's picture to two people in two areas of the world and have them both recognize her?), but its not enough of a distraction to keep you from enjoying the story.
Yolen brings to light the other people who suffered at Nazi Germany's hand. Her story gives you a unique prospective on the Jews and the homosexuals during this time in Poland. The numbers of people who died at their "camps" is staggering. During high school we went on a field trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC. The images they presented were enough to make one sick to think that one human could do this to another. One of the strongest images that still remains with me were the rooms filled with shoes and another filled with bags and bags of hair. The experience is like none I've ever had before. The frightening part is knowing that there have been many medical advances because of the experiments the doctors did on these "undesirable" people. Its sickening.
I guess that part of why I was so impressed with this story is that Yolen was able to take a dreary subject like the Holocaust and turn it into a happily ever after story, a silver lining in a dark cloud. This book is definatly worth your time and attention. Please go pick up a copy.