Title: Beauty: a retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast
Author: Robin McKinley
Review number: 24
Genre: Fantasy, fairy tale
Stand alone/series: stand alone
Summary: When the family business collapses, Beauty and her two sisters are forced to leave the city and begin a new life in the countryside. However, when their father accepts hospitality from the elusive and magical Beast, he is forced to make a terrible promise – to send one daughter to the Beast’s castle, with no guarantee that she will be seen again. Beauty accepts the challenge, and there begins an extraordinary story of magic and love that overcomes all boundaries
Why did I read the book: Thea recommended it.
I wonder: is there anyone out there that doesn’t know the tale of The Beauty and The Beast?
Here is how the fairytale goes: Once upon a time, there was a wealthy family made up by a widowed father and his three daughters, Hope, Grace and Beauty and they lived happily until one day their father’s fortune turned and they lost everything. Having to start from scratch they moved to the countryside where their new life began. One day, coming back from a trip their father gets lost in the forest and ends up in an enchanted castle where he is treated like a king by invisible forces. The next day, before he leaves he visits the garden and picks up a rose as a present for youngest daughter, Beauty. As soon as he picks the flower though, the Beast appears and says that he committed a terrible sin and he should die unless his daughter is brought to him as a payment. Beauty who was the epitome of everything that is good in this world, decides that her father cannot die and goes willingly to the castle. And there her new life begins, and she slowly starts trusting the Beast until one day, missing her family so much she asks him to let her go and visit them. He grants her request but she must return within one week otherwise he dies. Her sisters, who were envious of her fortune, as the Beast covered her in beautiful dresses and jewelry, make her stay one more day and when she returns the Beast is dying and she then realizes that she loves him, and ta-ram the Beast is free of the enchantment he was under and in his place a beautiful Prince appears and they live happily ever after.
In this re-telling of the story, the plot goes exactly the same way but with a few essential differences that make the story a lot more enjoyable. Firstly the tale is narrated by Beauty herself and the first half of the book is centered around her life before meeting Beast. In this way, we find out what moves Beauty, who by the way is not really a Beauty. She is plain and small, while her sisters are much prettier. But this is not a problem as she is smart and outspoken and fierce. She is also bookish and is always reading Greek and Latin and the Classic authors. She has a very good loving relationship with her sisters who are not envious at all, they are all good folks that truly love each other.
A lot of realism is shown then, by following the family struggles to come up to their feet again, living in the countryside and having to do all the work that was once done by servants. They all share the misfortunes and their bond is true and loving. So it is indeed a blow when Beauty must leave to live with the Beast. Her sorrow and her fear are tangible when she first arrives in the castle and is alone with strange, invisible forces.
But then she meets the Beast. And she gets to know him, and they talk and they walk and they read to each other in his wonderful library. He tries to shower her with magnificent dresses and jewelry but she will have none of that. She is plain and she is simple and she carries on exactly like that. And when she has to leave she does so because she wants to help her sister and she feels guilty for leaving the Beast. More to the point, she realizes as soon as she is back home that her place is not longer there and that she truly loves her Beast.
Beauty was a terrific heroine and it was a mighty fine sight to see the Beast clearly restraining himself when around her so he wouldn’t scare her off, trying hard not to come too near even though we can feel his longing for her all the while.
I though this was an admirable effort by Robin McKinley to tell one of the most known stories in the world with such fresh ingredients that it seemed I was reading it for the first time.
I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good story told with a distinctive voice.
Notable quotes/ Parts: I loved every sequence between Beauty and the Beast. They eventually become really good friends and my favorite is when she feeds him her favorite cake and they laughed at the same time, in unison.
Additional thoughts: there are a lot of adaptations of this story, the most famous one being the Disney movie. But my favorite book with the theme Beauty and Beast is Lord of Scoundrels. How can we not love Dain the ever so ugly Marquess who worked hard to make his inside as horrendous as his outside so that he wouldn’t feel the rejection of his peers? Until he meets Jess who sees beyond that and realized that he is nothing but a small boy who needs a big hug? My favorite Romance Novel of all times!
Verdict: This book is a complete delight from beginning to end.
Rating 7: Very good.
Reading Next: The Pretender by Celeste Bradley