I seem to be continuing my theme of Holocaust literature this past year, without any conscious intent. Jane Yolen's Briar Rose (1992) is the story of a granddaughter's search for her grandmother's mysterious past. For all of her life, Becca and her sisters have heard only one story from their grandmother, Gemma: the story of Sleeping Beauty (Briar Rose), told with a haunting twist. After Gemma dies, Becca is determined to find the true meaning behind the fairytale.
Her search takes her to Poland and the gruesome extermination camp Chelmo. This is when the story gets good. Horrifying and painful, but well written. The first half of the novel was frankly somewhat annoying. Sandwiched in between interesting chapters about Gemma were seemingly insignificant chapters that featured catty fighting and nitpicking between Becca and her two flat, stereotypical sisters--both present day and in flashbacks. I have no idea why Yolen included this meaningless subplot. It was a huge distraction to me. I wish she's concentrated more fully on developing the characters of Becca and her grandmother. There is probably some "wicked stepsister" allusion here, but it was not effective.
But if you can get past that, the story itself is good. The experiences described at Chelmo and with the partisan fighters outside the camp added a new dimension of the Holocaust experience for me.
Another review of Briar Rose: Natasha at Maw Books.
Other Holocaust-themed books reviewed here: I Have Lived a Thousand Years (Livia Bitton-Jackson), Night (Elie Wiesel), The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak), The Nazi Officer's Wife (Edith Hahn Beer), The Endless Steppe (Esther Hautzig).