Briar Rose (Anglais) Belle reliure – 4 octobre 2008
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"Gemma, tell your story again," Shana begged, putting her arms around her grandmother and breathing in that special smell of talcum and lemon that seemed to belong only to her. Lire la première page
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As for the book itself, Yolen does a lovely job of interweaving past and present, fairy tale and reality. "Gemma's" version of Briar Rose has long been one of my favorite modern retellings. There are some issues with the book--the shallowness of the minor characters, the inordinate convenience of Josef Potocki's appearance in the story--but these are easily brushed aside due to the cruel beauty of the fairy tale, which is indisputably the highlight of the novel. The only major problem is this:
Granted, the characters believed Gemma came to the US before the war. But. Are we truly to believe that a Jewish family descended from an Eastern European immigrant never made the connection between the details in Gemma's unique telling of Briar Rose and the Nazis? Big black boots, shiny silver eagles, deadly "mist", and no one but the heroine lives happily ever after, yet none of them picked up on the Nazi references? I can't say it bothered me when I first read this book--I was a child, after all--but in subsequent readings it has jolted me out of the story. It was necessary for the plot to develop in the manner Yolen desired, but I can't help feeling that there are other ways she might have handled it so that this unrealistic device didn't intrude on the story.
Briar Rose takes the classic fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty and links it to the Holocaust. Rebecca, the youngest of her grandmother Gemma's granddaughters, has grown up listening to Gemma's rendition of Sleeping Beauty. Upon Gemma's death, Rebecca realizes that the story is one of the few clues to Gemma's past, a past that Gemma makes her swear on her deathbed to discover. Her search carries her to Poland and into the heart of the horrors of the Holocaust.
The French gave us the word plot through "plait," which refers to the unraveling the reader must do as she reads. Imagine a plait of cloth lying horizontally with the loose part on the left (reading occurs left to right) as a closed book. Open the book, read and unravel, read and unravel. This is the task Gemma has given Becca: Unravel the past. The family knows nothing of Gemma's past. Her only clue is the fairy tale: Briar Rose, a new telling of Sleeping Beauty.
The audience knows the power of fairy tales to hide universal truths, that sometimes an external force, in the form of a handsome prince, defeats evil characters and their spells, and sometimes the inner power of the character is the impetus. Jane Yolen's brilliant retelling of Sleeping Beauty through Gemma's tale, is one novel in the Fairy Tales series begun by Terry Windling, in which writers retell a fairy tale in a modern setting. In this tale is hidden the evil of the Holocaust in one hideous castle run by Nazis, and one princess, Briar Rose, awakened by the power of a kiss. No more than that will I tell.
Yolen employs a favorite literary device in Gemma's telling of the tale. In the beginning chapters the reader is supposedly given the finished plait of the story. As Becca begins her quest in discovering the truth, Yolen begins unraveling the story, revealing one hidden fact, and another, and another, until finally toward the end the story is fully revealed and the reader is left gasping at its truth.
Because Becca is a reporter, she knows how to uncover the truth. With the help of her handsome boss, Becca begins her task. A major truth she learns about him before she leaves for Poland is that he is adopted but had his own quest of learning who his birth mother is. Is it necessary to know this truth? Is it better to leave some truths unknown? This is the crux of Yolen's book: Are there some truths better left unknown? Think of that plait. We read a book because we want to unravel the plot and get at the truth of the story. The handsome boss had to know his truth, Becca had to know her Gemma's story, and in the end learns her own identity.
This is one of the most satisfactory Holocaust novels/stories I have ever read, not because it has a happy ending (it does and it doesn't), but because the way Yolen unravels the truth through first one thread then another. If this seems enigmatic, that is what Yolen wants--sometimes finding the truth is tricky and difficult. For many reasons this is an excellent book for girls 9-12, depending on their maturity. This is not a sanitized Walt Disney Sleeping Beauty, but an old-fashioned one in which evil is what it is, but that truth can be liberating.