The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Briar Rose is one of the Fairy Tale Series created for Ace, then later published by Tor. Briar Rose is a later book in the series. Each novel in the collection is by a different author and is a twentieth century story based on a traditional fairy tale.

In this case, the basis is “Sleeping Beauty.” The heroine of Briar Rose is Becca Berlin, a young Jewish woman who grew up hearing her grandmother (nicknamed Gemma) tell the tale. Shortly before Gemma dies, she tells Becca that the familiar bedtime story is no fantasy: The old woman was the princess who woke to a prince’s kiss. Gemma begs Becca to find the castle where it happened, and her granddaughter promises to do so.

Gemma’s background is a mystery even to her family. All Becca has to guide her is a box of Gemma’s mementos, discovered only after the grandmother’s death, and the fact that Gemma immigrated to America in 1944. Even the immigration papers turn out to be nearly useless, however; many of the questions on them are unanswered, and Becca is not sure the papers are her grandmother’s. She deciphers them and learns that they belong to Gitl Rose Mandlestein, who was married and pregnant. Gitl’s physical description fits Gemma, but the only nickname listed is Ksiniczka. Becca is stunned when she learns that the name is Polish for “princess.” The date of Gitl’s marriage and her home village and district in Poland are not provided.


(The entire section is 567 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Briar Rose consists of alternating chapters of main story and flashback, a form broken in later pages by the sustained narration...

(The entire section is 329 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

One of Yolen's concerns has been to make the fairy-tale form relevant to the social and political concerns of post-World War II society. Her...

(The entire section is 318 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In Briar Rose, Yolen tries to bring the reader to terms with the atrocities and consequences of the World War II Holocaust. She does...

(The entire section is 205 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Briar Rose is a blend of traditional and modern elements in literature. It has antecedents in classical fairy-tale tradition, in the...

(The entire section is 185 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In The Devil's Arithmetic (1988), a book intended for younger readers, the Jewish girl Hannah opens the door in the course of a Seder...

(The entire section is 80 words.)