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Briar Rose (The Fairy Tale Series)

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  9,221 ratings  ·  1,009 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)
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson LevineThe Goose Girl by Shannon HaleBeauty by Robin McKinleyThe Princess Bride by William GoldmanFairest by Gail Carson Levine
The Best Fairytales and Retellings
28th out of 1,639 books — 6,945 voters
The Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankNight by Elie WieselThe Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John BoyneNumber the Stars by Lois Lowry
Well Written Holocaust Books
22nd out of 517 books — 2,168 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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.

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 r ...more
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 t ...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
Jan 04, 2008 Natalie rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
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.
I'm really, really disturbed by the majority of two star reviews here dismissing the book because of its LGBT content. It's been two years since I read it, so I don't exactly remember how graphic it was, but if I had to make an educated guess it wasn't half as graphic as your average heterosexual romance novel.

Let me be clear here: I didn't like this book. At all. I didn't like it because the Holocaust story seemed tacked on and deliberately made to fit the fairy tale for dramatic effect and tha
Lady Bilbo (Nicole)
Aug 08, 2014 Lady Bilbo (Nicole) rated it 2 of 5 stars
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.
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
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
Frieda M
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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 r ...more
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
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
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
This is a very moving tale about a woman trying to find her Grandmother's history. Becca's Grandmother, known as Gemma to her family, loves to share the tale of Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty) and insists she is, in fact, Briar Rose herself. She has not shared any information about her life before coming to America in the 40’s and her family believes she does not know. On Gemma’s deathbed she asks Becca to promise to find the castle from her story. Becca agrees and is quickly surrounded by all the ...more
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 2 of 5 stars
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
Circus Folk
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
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
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
Powerful and horrible, yet beautiful as well. This had some details of the Holocaust that I had never heard before. I was anxious for the mystery of Gemma's past to be solved, and it seemed like I had to wait a long time in the book for it to happen. When it did, it was worth the wait and much more than I had imagined. Yolen's use of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale to tell a story of the Holocaust was masterfully done. I thought this quote from the book was particularly appropriate and can be app ...more
Cupof Tea
This story started off slow, and the telling of the actual fairy tale is split throughout the book, so at first I was impatient for the story to get going. Once Becca takes action, however, the tale unravels quickly to at least some form of happy ever after, which I enjoyed.

I enjoyed the mixing of the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty with a real story of survival through one of the most horrible times in the last 100 years.
Jane Yolen explores the story of Sleeping Beauty by setting it during the Holocaust. If this sounds like a difficult book to read, it is, but it also addresses the idea of personal history as story and brings to the surface the dark nature of many classic folk tales.

Unfortunately, the dialogue is jarringly flat - I've seen Yolen write much better - and the romantic subplot distracts from the narrative as a whole. If Yolen had just focused on Gemma, this would have been a five-star book.
I like fairy tale retellings IF they are done in a original way. Cinderella has been done to death. I've been in a Magical Realism phase lately, so a modern retelling of a classic tale with non-magic explanations definitely intrigued.

I came across Briar Rose on goodreads and was captivated by the premise. The main character, Rebecca, has heard her grandmother's strange version of Sleeping Beauty all her life. It's a unique version where the evil fairy comes with silver eagles, the castle is surr
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Wild Things: YA G...: February 2011- Briar Rose by Jane Yolen 19 48 May 30, 2011 05:32PM  
Endicott Mythic F...: Briar Rose - Discussion 8 28 Apr 03, 2009 09:17PM  
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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 Massachuset ...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
The Devil's Arithmetic  Owl Moon How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? Dragon's Blood How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food?

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“Fairy Tales always have a happy ending.' That depends... on whether you are Rumpelstiltskin or the Queen.” 196 likes
“Time may heal all wounds, but it does not erase the scars.” 52 likes
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