Becky's Reviews > Briar Rose

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
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Jan 18, 10

Read in January, 2010

** spoiler alert ** The first hundred or so pages of this novella is really just a frame story for the last seventy. Nevertheless it was fairly compelling throughout, and definitely a meaningful addition to the body of Holocaust literature.

It's interesting that this book was published as fantasy, which it isn't really. Also that it's won awards (and in my library, was labelled, although not shelved) as a YA novel. In her very good introduction to the "Fairy Tale Series" under which this this was published, Terri Windling quotes Tolkien in saying that the fairy tale became the domain of children "primarily because the adults do not want it, and do not mind if it is misused." I think Holocaust literature, and in general the literature of many dark chapters in history, has suffered this fate - if not actually misused, it's something you read when you're young because it's educational, but not something grown people are expected to think about.

Finally, the premise of the book reminded me of the quote, "To write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric." On one hand, the book shows the process of creating art in response to the Holocaust as being empowering. On the other, how much did the fairy tale thread really add to the story? Yolen says at the end that no woman survived Chelmno and that "happy-ever-after is a fairy tale notion, not history." So is Briar Rose really a fantasy after all? Hmm.
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