Watching the Roses

Geras, Adele. Watching the Roses. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992.

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Alice has been raped. It occurred at her eighteenth birthday party, the day her nasty aunt Violette wished for her to die. Another aunt, Marguerite, had softened this wish by combating it with a wish for long life, saying, “what with Violette’s wish, there may be an accident or an illness, or something of that kind, but Alice will live to a ripe old age.” Since the rape, Alice has been existing in almost a comatose state, probably from the shock and trauma. During this time, she appears to be sleeping to all who visit her, but when no one is around, she shares her story in an old notebook. This is where we learn all about Alice’s life, her thirteen aunts who each give her a special gift (fairies or Wise Women), house surrounded by roses which go unattended while she is convalescing (castle surrounded by briars), jealous aunt Violette, angry for not having been invited to Alice’s christening (the scene of the curse), boyfriend Jean Luc (prince), brooch given to her by Violette which she accidentally pricks herself with (spindle prick), constant desire to sleep and the near silence that has come over her entire house (the spell), parents who prior to Alice’s birth had difficulty conceiving a child (the king and queen), a stranger’s prediction of her birth, (as foretold by a frog in many versions), Miss van der Leyden, a kind old lady staying in Alice’s house known for her ability to make clothing (like the good old woman spinning in many tales), and eventual healing (the breaking of the spell).

I was pleasantly surprised by this book, but I must say I think many of the allusions mentioned above may go unnoticed by a young adult not looking for such precise similarities. That aside, I still think many young people will like this book. Yes, it is graphic at parts and even frightening, but I think it could actually help young women who have had a similar experience, as it emphasizes that the rape was in no way Alice’s fault, and shows that with time and by acknowledging her feelings she is able to recover. This book is part of the Egerton Hall Trilogy, about Alice and her friends Bella and Megan, and all are inspired by fairy tales. I could definitely see myself checking out other books in this trilogy as I grew to enjoy the three friends and the atmosphere the author creates.

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