Friday, 8 June 2012
Author: Robin McKinley
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: January 1st, 1978
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retellings
Beauty has never been fond of her nickname, which she never felt fit her. Her older sisters Grace and Hope are the true beauties, and Beauty is the brain of the family. She falls upon misfortune when her family loses everything, including her sister’s fiancée. Together, they move from the city to a town outside of a forest that is rumored to be enchanted. For two years, Beauty avoids the forest, but when a storm after a long trip drives her father into its depths, he finds himself at a strange castle inhabited by a Beast. Although the strange creature allows her father to leave, once he tries to bring home a rose the Beast vows that if the man does not return in a month to stay with him or bring his daughter to serve in his place he will personally come and find him. Since the rose was a gift for Beauty, she decides to stay with the Beast in her father’s place. The Beast is different from what Beauty first imagined, and treats her with kindness, giving her all of life’s luxuries. Immersed in the magic of her new home, Beauty wonders if anyone can truly love a Beast.
I think everyone knows the story of Beauty and the Beast, whether you’ve read the original text or not. The basic story, stripped of all the magical elements, is still pretty popular: girl meets a mean guy but comes to love him and see him for who he truly is. This retelling doesn’t have any twists, although the author has added original details to make the story her own. In the special features of my Beauty and the Beast (1991) DVD, the filmmakers discuss the difficulties they had making the original story into a film. This was because the story mainly consists of Beauty going to dinner with the Beast every night, during which he asks her to marry him and every night she refuses. This, and my love for the Disney film, both may have been why I found this book to be a bit boring and slow moving. Beauty lives in a world like our own, only with magic existing within her world. She enjoys reading Greek poetry and anything else she can get her hands on. While I at first liked Beauty’s character, eventually I found her to be boring and unrealistic. In fairy tale and fairy tale retellings, I find flat characters to be a common problem. I also never loved Beauty and the Beast’s relationship, but that could just be because I liked the Disney adaptation so much. The writing was very descriptive and eloquent, and I liked the familial focus of the story. I enjoyed all the changes McKinley made to the story, and while I don’t think this book was for me I could why it’s still read after all these years (this book came out in 1978.) Lovers of fairy tales and romance will enjoy how Robin McKinley gave breath to a story as old as time.