Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty & the Beast by Robin McKinley
Fantasy, Published 2005, Orig. 1979
Read: Aug 2010, 325 pp.
Challenges: Summer 2010 Reading Challenge, Once Upon a Time, YA Reading Challenge
Shelf Life: 3.5 Years – Wow!… – Purchased 12-19-2006
Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.
When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, “Cannot a Beast be tamed?”
Robin McKinley’s beloved telling illuminates the unusual love story of the most unlikely couple: Beauty and the Beast.
Beauty and the Beast is probably my favorite Disney version fairy tale. It could very well have to do with the library…I think I would put up with the Beast for a library like that. And McKinley’s version does not disappoint. Her Beauty also has a very magical library in this tale, with books that had not even been written yet.
McKinley does not stray much from the original tale, but spends a lot of time with the family’s background story. Beauty, whose real name is Honour, grew up in a seaside city, the youngest daughter of a very successful sea merchant. Then one fateful day of high seas, several of her father’s boats are lost at sea, including her sister’s, Grace, beau. Beauty’s oldest sister, Hope, has already married and moved to the country and with the debt of repaying what was lost at sea, the family goes into ruin and is forced from their fancy city home to the country with Hope and her husband.
On a second trip home from the city to settle his debts, Beauty’s father becomes lost in the forest and meets the Beast. He is treated very warmly until he leaves and picks a perfect rose to bring back to his Beauty. The Beast rages and demands his enslavement, but does allow him to return home first to tell his family of his fate. The characterization of the Beast is a bit confusing, because he is portrayed to be generally a nice guy, wining and dining the weary and lost traveler, but do not mess with his rose garden, because then he will keep you captive, but if you have a daughter he could marry instead, even better.
The tale of Beauty coming to live with the Beast and ultimately falling in love with him and lifting the Beast’s curse is hurriedly told through the second half of the book, and this is my only complaint about this enchanting retelling. I would have liked to know more of the Beast’s past, he has lived in the castle for over 200 years. Perhaps this is why McKinley revisits the tale in another book, Rose Daughter. Overall, Beauty was very enjoyable and a keeper for readers of all ages.
This arbour of roses seemed somehow different from the great gardens that lay all around the castle, but different in some fashion he could not define. The castle and its gardens were everywhere silent and beautifully kept; but there was a self-containment, even almost a self awareness here, that was reflected in the petals of each and every rose, and drew his eyes from the path. -pp. 88-89
This single room of the library was as large as our whole house in the city had been, and I could see more book-filled rooms through open doors in all directions, including a balcony overhead, all built from floor to ceiling with bookshelves. -p. 190