Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Review: Beauty

Beauty: a retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley
4 stars

Reasons for reading: have always meant to; Daring Book Challenge

Description (from Amazon): "This much-loved retelling of the classic French tale Beauty and the Beast elicits the familiar magical charm, but is more believable and complex than the traditional story. In this version, Beauty is not as beautiful as her older sisters, who are both lovely and kind. Here, in fact, Beauty has no confidence in her appearance but takes pride in her own intelligence, her love of learning and books, and her talent in riding. She is the most competent of the three sisters, which proves essential when they are forced to retire to the country because of their father's financial ruin. The plot follows that of the renowned legend: Beauty selflessly agrees to inhabit the Beast's castle to spare her father's life. Beauty's gradual acceptance of the Beast and the couple's deepening trust and affection are amplified in novel form. "

First line: "I was the youngest of three daughters."

My thoughts: I enjoy fairy tale re-tellings and this one is masterful. I see why it's a classic, yet it doesn't feel dated - it could have been written in the time of the Brothers Grimm or today.

I liked the added elements of the family's story - the father loses his money, as in the original story, but they're able to move to the country with the one daughter's fiance, who has a place a blacksmith. I enjoyed the story of them re-making their lives. I also liked that Beauty became beautiful over time, though I'm not sure if it was due to magic or that she simply grew into her looks.

Sadly, it was a bit hard to read about the enchanted castle without thinking of Disney's Beauty and the Beast - damn Disney. But still, I'd love to live there - candles lighting as you approach, anything you want to eat or wear appears instantly, no housekeeping, perfect gardens... And an enormous library with a wonderful twist - it contains books that haven't been written yet, like Sherlock Holmes and the poetry of Robert Browning.

Verdict: A very well-done spin on a classic tale.


Suey said...

One of my favorites!

Janssen said...

Oh I adored this book. I need to reread it!

Jena said...

When I went to see Beauty & the Beast for the first time, I walked out telling my sisters, "I think they read Robin McKinley's book."

Whether Disney used her book as a springboard for their movie is an FAQ on her site; and no, she was never consulted, credited or paid any kind of fee or royalty (though I suspect there were meetings with her & the publisher's lawyers).

Em said...

I read Chalice and really liked it. Now I need to read her other books. :)

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Jena - wow, that's really interesting! I never actually thought my fleeting thoughts about it actually came close to reality! I'll have to look that up.

Em - I think I will, too. I read The Blue Sword years ago and it was too fantasy-ish for me, so I kind of forgot about her. But now I know she can write like this, I'll give Chalice a go!