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Briar Rose (The Fairy Tale Series)

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  10,976 Ratings  ·  1,218 Reviews
A powerful retelling of Sleeping Beauty that is "heartbreaking and heartwarming."

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
Paperback, 241 pages
Published March 15th 2002 by Tor Teen (first published August 31st 1988)
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Sarah Page 106:
She attempted a smile. "Fairy tales always have a happy ending."
He leaned back in his chair. "That depends."
"On what?"
"On whether you…more
Page 106:
She attempted a smile. "Fairy tales always have a happy ending."
He leaned back in his chair. "That depends."
"On what?"
"On whether you are Rumplestiltskin or the Queen."(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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May 13, 2010 Madeline rated it really liked it
Becca has grown up hearing her grandmother (called "Gemma" because one of her granddaughters couldn't pronounce "grandma") tell the story of Sleeping Beauty to her and her sisters. Gemma's story is different from the widely-known version, however - in this one, Briar Rose has red hair (like Gemma) and lives in a castle where everyone falls asleep after an evil fairy sends a mist over everyone. When the prince comes to the castle, he kisses Sleeping Beauty, but she is the only one who wakes up.

May 25, 2008 Jolie rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
I have always loved fairy tales, and their retellings, ever since I got my hands on a complete collection of Grimm's Fairy Tales. So I was excited to find this retelling of Sleeping Beauty that is, of all things, also a Holocaust story. Becca is the 3rd daughter (third--very important in fairy tales...)of a Jewish family, whose grandmother, known to them as Gemma, has slipped into senility and finally dies. On her deathbed, Gemma makes Becca promise to track down her inheritance--the truth--of ...more
Feb 20, 2009 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Shelves: young-adult
This novel retells a segment of the holocaust through the lens of a family story masquerading as a fairy tale. This device was interesting and ambitious, but it fell flat. I had a little trouble determine the intended audience for this book. The viewpoint character is a young woman, a recent college graduate still living at home. (At one point, we are gratuitously informed that she had watched one of the soft porn movies on late night tv.) But the simplicity of the language suggested a younger ...more
Beth F.
I never read much Young Adult fiction before joining Goodreads because it never occurred to me that some of it could appeal to an adult reader. But that was then and this is now and while the majority of my book choices are still geared toward an adult audience, I'm certainly more open to YA as a possible source for enjoyment than I ever used to be. I'm glad because this book was a winner.

A lot of YA tends to oversimplify certain things and this was no exception, however, since the intended audi
Dec 17, 2009 Cinco rated it it was amazing
You can always depend on Jane Yolen for excellent writing, but this is my absolute favorite of hers. She manages to combine the Holocaust, the Sleeping Beauty tale, and a young woman's memories of her grandmother into a really wonderful book. Very highly recommended.
Jubilation Lee
So had you asked me, friends, to tell you the story of Sleeping Beauty—the real story, not the one that Disney had girlified—I would have tried to patch together some half-remembered Grimm’s Fairy Tale, maybe with a bit of the original French story thrown in. I also would have included the details that the bad fairy had silver eagles in her hair, and that the prince, when he tried to break through the wall of thorns surrounding the castle, was sung to by the ghosts of people who had tried to get ...more
Jan 04, 2008 Natalie rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Those interested in the holocaust over 14 or so
If you picked up this book thinking it was a fantasy/modern fairytale, you will be disappointed. There is NO fantasy, magic, magical creatures, alternate realities etc in this book. In fact, I almost didn't finish it because it seemed like a pretty standard piece of fluff for over half the book.
I am glad that I did finish it, though. The only reason I did was because I decided to look up some reviews to see what the deal was. I found this book looking for retelling of fairytales/fantasy type bo
Dec 30, 2011 Rachel added it
Okay, I actually couldn't finish this because the writing was deeply awful (which is a shame, because I thought the plot was very interesting), but I have to post a review just so I can include the line that had me and my husband laughing ourselves silly. Real line, really included in this book, really not removed by her editor:

"Her eyebrows worked independently of one another, which gave her the look of a slightly demented dove." (Followed by: "Becca decided she liked that.")

So many questions r
pocket calculator
I wanted to like this book, but I just couldn't.

One aspect that irritated me was the fact that this book has too many unnecessary details. I do not have to know exactly what the characters were wearing or what they ate for lunch if it has no relevance to their personality or the plot. This book had too many of those details, and I almost went insane.

This book also had too many cringe-worthy lines like, "Jews don't believe in ghosts," and "I do not make love with women." I've read quite a few ch
Althea Ann
An installment in Terri Windling's "Fairy Tale Series."
This book is not actually a fairy tale or fantasy at all... it deals with a young woman searching for the truth about her grandmother's life. The grandmother had always been loving, but a little bit eccentric, and obsessed with the story of Sleeping Beauty, or Briar Rose. Her granddaughter, Becca, makes her a deathbed promise to 'find the castle,' which she interprets as a request to find out the truth of how the metaphor of Sleeping Beauty
Sep 12, 2015 (ha)Ley marked it as never-finished
DNF at page 115

I wanted to love this. I really did. The cover is gorgeous and I really enjoy fairytale retellings. But this just did not work for me at all. The writing was dull and dry, Becca was so uninteresting, and the story is just not what I expected at all.

So I'm putting this one down. Maybe I'll come back to it? But probably not.
Nicole Marie
Aug 08, 2014 Nicole Marie rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: no one
1.5 stars Got about 3/4 of the way through and then had to put it down. Jane Yolen definitely didn't have to put all the gay/lesbian stuff in the book. It was just a bit too bothersome for me to finish :( And there could have been less swearing.
Feb 10, 2012 TheBookSmugglers rated it really liked it
Originally reviewed on The Book Smugglers

For as long as she can remember, Becca has been enamored, frightened, and captivated by her Grandmother Gemma's favorite story - that of Briar Rose, and the awful sleeping curse placed on her and all her people by the cruel fairy with black boots and emblazoned with silver eagles. As the years pass, while Becca's sisters start their own families and tire of Gemma's Sleeping Beauty story, Becca remains ever faithful and dedicated to her grandmother - even
Circus Folk
May 24, 2010 Circus Folk rated it it was ok
Shelves: literary-fiction
I am still baffled by the amount of rave reviews Briar Rose received. Admittedly, the story is very unique. The idea of comparing the Holocaust to the Sleeping Beauty fairytale may seem a bit far-fetched initially, yet Yolen manages to bring the truth of this parallel to light. Unfortunately, it was executed in a way that really detracted from what was formally an original idea. Instead we are left with a poorly written, confused, and mediocre young adult novel.

Many of the characters that popula
Hmm, I first rated this 3 stars, now I'm debatting to downgrad it to 2 stars. The start was good, the ending wasn't too bad but the middle was seriously weak - I was not impressed (and I can't even be bothered to go into all the details).

Just a couple of things...
1) Once Becca got to Poland (and oh, wasn't that all so very easy all of a sudden?), she was just sooo annoying, constantly correcting Magda's English. Interestingly, Magda only seemed to have trouble constructing simple sentences in En
Sep 23, 2014 Kaora rated it liked it
Everyone likes a fairy tale story because everyone wants things to come out right in the end. And even though to tell a story is to tell some kind of untruth, one often suspects that what seems to be untruth is really a hidden truth.

Briar Rose is a new take on the classic fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty. Gemma loves telling her grandchildren the story of Sleeping Beauty. However on her death bed she reveals that she is Briar Rose and makes her granddaughter promise her to find the castle, find the p
"Gemma" has told the tale of Briar Rose to her three granddaughters for as long as they can remember, but on her death bed, in a moment of lucidity, Gemma emphatically informs Becca that she actually is Briar Rose. A box full of Gemma's secret possessions leads Becca to unravel the mystery of her grandmother's past in a harrowing holocaust story.

Imaginative re-tellings of fairy tales can be hit or miss for me, but this book really caught my attention with the way it took the story of Sleeping B
Dec 17, 2015 Leah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not since Bitter Greens and Deathless have I read a fairy-tale retelling that truly embraced the power of historical context. I think one of the best types of retellings understands that fairy tales were not written (or read) in a vacuum. Much like horror stories, fairy tales have always explored the tellers' fears and desires, and often subverted mainstream societal norms and constraints. By choosing to blend history (whether real or imagined) with fairy tale, the retelling gains a quasi-realis ...more
Jan 14, 2012 Shannon rated it it was ok
Briar Rose is a re-imagining of the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. Unfortunately, it wasn't the retelling I was hoping for. I had hoped for either a new and adult take on a fairy tale, or a new look at an old story that I could share with my 10 and 12 year old daughters. This book provided neither. Here's what it did give me: a way to see how fairy tales tell us more about real life than we might imagine.

Briar Rose tells the story of Becca, a 23 year old journalist whose grandmother, Gemma, always
Sep 19, 2013 Carol rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya-fiction, yolen
Great read!! I read it in one sitting. The story of Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty) linked to the Holocaust. Rebecca Berlin, a young woman who has grown up hearing her grandmother, Gemma, tell an unusual and scary version of the Sleeping Beauty legend, realizes when Gemma dies that the fairy tale offers one of the very few clues she has to her grandmother's past. Rebecca travels to Poland, to discover the facts behind Gemma's story. My only concern is that I think it would be difficult for YAs to ...more
Although it's loosely based on Sleeping Beauty it is not itself fairy-tale-like, and is set in modern times. Part of the action takes place in Nazi Germany and the plight of the Jews (the significance of the barbed wire on the cover photo). It's a good story, and although it's not all happy events I did like it very much. It's in my "to re-read" pile.
Aug 29, 2015 Katie rated it really liked it
The internet reminded me of this book a week or so ago. My memories of it mostly consisted of, "A forest and some traveling and some romance."

All those things are true! But there is much more to this. Very powerful and sad and good.
Ms. Library
Jul 18, 2015 Ms. Library rated it really liked it
I want to write a review of this, but words kind of fail me.
Dec 07, 2013 Jess rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
This book is a very loose retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Like, very loose. A young woman must find out why her grandmother's life revolved around the tale of Sleeping Beauty, and her research takes her to Poland, where she finds the truth.

To start off with, the pacing of this story was really hard to follow. At times, it was easy to get into, and then it would abruptly change into something dull and tedious, and I'd feel compelled to skip past it. I noticed that the slow parts occured when nothin
Jul 16, 2009 Emily rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Fairy tail/ history addicts who can condone a lot of trash
I love this book and deeply despise it at the same time.

As I read the back of the book, I just had this feeling that it would be my kind of story... and this proved to be very true. I'm a big fan of fairytales and historical fiction and Yolen threads the story of sleeping beauty and the holocaust beautifully. It was sad (I seem to be naturally drawn to books that deal with heartwrenching human experiences), it was intriguing ( a lot of clues that were fun to specualte about), it was interesting
Mar 20, 2011 Grace rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
You know that feeling when your throat is tight and sore, and your nose prickles a little, and your breath goes shallow and short? It's a feeling that's not crying, but it's only not crying because you're thinking of something else so hard that your body can't quite tilt over into crying so it just endures in this sore, heartbreaking ache. "Briar Rose" hit that note for me about three-quarters through, and sustained it in a way I can't remember experiencing before.

On one level, this is about a g
May 13, 2008 Karen rated it it was amazing
This beautiful tale takes you out of time and into the "reality" of the Holocaust. Set around a woman's retelling of the simple Sleeping Beauty story you see the influence of World War II in the snatches of the story long before the narrative takes you there. It becomes a matter of the narrative confirming your guesses rather than revealing anything.

I've always been "haunted" by the Holocaust. I've never seen Schindler's List (which may be a good thing since this book had me tearing), but the fa
Feb 11, 2015 Sienna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
In elementary school we were able to place orders periodically through the Scholastic Book Club. Thanks to the generosity of my parents, this program brought many books into our home, and I devoured them eagerly, hungrily, happily. Maybe not always happily. The one I remember best, the one I loved the most, the one that probably shaped some of my more significant choices in college a decade later, was Jane Yolen's The Devil's Arithmetic.

Like that book (about which more soon, because I found a co
If you don't know me, I'm going to tell you straight off that Sleeping Beauty is my favorite Disney movie. So when my friend gave me this book, I was immediately intrigued.

Holy shit was that intense. Briar Rose is the tale of Sleeping Beauty, but not the classic 'pricks her finger on a spindle, sleeps, wakes up by a prince's kiss' fairy tale we're all used to. This Sleeping Beauty is told in flashbacks by a grandmother to her grandchildren. It's only when the grandmother dies, that we begin to
Jun 12, 2014 Nora rated it really liked it
This book, viewing the Holocaust through the suppressed memories of a survivor, is very effective at proving its thesis: that fairy-tales can be powerful lenses through which harsh realities can become accessible to future generations.

The frame narrative -- that of Rebecca searching for the truth in her grandmother's Sleeping Beauty retelling -- is, for most of the novel, rather weak. I'm just not very interested in her, or in her sisters' bickering (the whole virtuous-youngest-child-of-three sh
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Jane Yolen is a novelist, poet, fantasist, journalist, songwriter, storyteller, folklorist, and children’s book author who has written more than three hundred books. Her accolades include the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Awards, the Kerlan Award, two Christopher Awards, and six honorary doctorate degrees from colleges and universities in ...more
More about Jane Yolen...

Other Books in the Series

The Fairy Tale Series (8 books)
  • The Sun, the Moon, & the Stars
  • The Nightingale
  • Snow White And Rose Red
  • Tam Lin
  • Jack of Kinrowan
  • White as Snow
  • Fitcher's Brides

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“Fairy Tales always have a happy ending.' That depends... on whether you are Rumpelstiltskin or the Queen.” 216 likes
“Time may heal all wounds, but it does not erase the scars.” 54 likes
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