I’ve just acquired a nice copy of this book, which I’ve previously read maybe 4 times in the past 25 years. I literally weep with intermingled joy and deep sorrow each time I read it - my wife Ronda knows what’s coming when I pick it up.
It’s not a long story. A grandmother who is dying tries to re-tell the story of Briar Rose (the original name of the Sleeping Beauty tale), to her granddaughter who has heard it many times from her; the grandmother tells it much differently than the tale we all know.
As she’s dying, she whispers ‘I am Briar Rose’ and makes her granddaughter promise to find the castle and the prince. She promises to do that, and starts to go through the rosewood box her grandmother had kept hidden for years.
I won’t give the story away, except for this: the grandmother, as a young girl, was found in a forest, dying, (not sleeping, as in the fairy tale) by a man named Prinz, but the snow falling around them was not the snow of the fairy tale; it was ash from the nearby Chelmno extermination camp in Poland.
Yolen weaves the modern day granddaughter, the fairy tale, and the holocaust together in a way that is sheer genius. True story-telling. And it packs a punch.
edit: I have an incorrect detail up above, but it does not change the story.