Title: Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
Author: Robin McKinley
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Romance, Young Adult
Date of Publication: 1993, reprinted 2018
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
A strange imprisonment…
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 a most unlikely couple, Beauty and the Beast. – Goodreads
I wanted to love this book, but it lacked for me in plot. The book concentrates on Beauty’s family life prior to moving into the castle to live with the Beast. This is the focus of the book, which I had not been expecting at all. I wanted to read about the castle and whatever mysterious magic goes on there, but this only took up the last little bit of the book. While the events that unfolded in her home life with her father and her sisters were interesting, I couldn’t quite enjoy it because I was waiting for the real story. It almost felt like two books ideas were slapped together, when they would have served better as two separate stories.
Language & Setting
The major appeal for this story is the writing style. Robin McKinley has an exquisite writing style, and the way that she describes the settings and the characters makes it seem like they could leap off the page and into the real world.
I had a hard time connecting with Beauty, even though she was an ordinary girl with a love for books. It might be an artifact of the writing style – when the writing focuses on style and beauty of language, I personally find it harder to connect with the protagonist. While we frequently get glimpses into her head and what she’s thinking, I never connected with her on a deeper level.
Unfortunately, her family was far more developed than any of the characters in the castle. We don’t get to truly meet any of the servants, since they’re invisible, yet it’s understood that they’re there. The Beast is somewhat of a caricature, and, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure why Beauty fell in love with him. However, if Beauty’s time in the castle had made up as much of the book as the events leading up to it, I do feel that I would have had enough time to grow to appreciate the Beast and his idiosyncracies.
I recommend this book to those who are looking for a different take on a magical medieval life, but aren’t expecting the story to exactly mirror the movie. There is a much greater focus on her family than on her time with the Beast, and knowing this before reading the story might increase your enjoyment of it.
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