by Robin McKinley
Read: June 18 - 22, 2013
Published: October 25, 1978 by HarperCollins
Category: Fairytale Retelling
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. (From Goodreads)
______________________________________________________________________As my daughter discovers Disney animated movies, we've been revisiting fairytales in our household. My favorite growing up was always The Little Mermaid, but recently I've fallen more and more in love with the tale of Beauty and the Beast. Unlike many fairytales, Beauty and the Beast's relationship is not based on insta-love or physical beauty, and it takes time to develop trust between them, let alone love. Wanting more of this unlikely but beloved couple, I was eager to pick up Beauty, Robin McKinley's retelling.
Beauty is the first book I've read by Robin McKinley, but friends have been raving about her stories for a long time. What I discovered was a lushly drawn setting and strong characters, woven into a story that truly felt timeless. However, I also quickly discovered that McKinley's stories cannot be rushed. It took nearly 100 pages for Beauty to reach the Beast's castle, and then even more time to build a connection between the unlikely pair.
Thankfully Beauty is a complex and well-crafted tale, and the more I read, the more I grew to love the richness and old world feel to McKinley's story, and the more I appreciated the long beginning made up of Beauty's family's dramas. I could tangibly understand Beauty's bond with her father and sisters, and her longing to see them, even while she was discovering the castle's wonders and getting to know the Beast. But it took me time to get to that place.
Like the work it takes for Beauty to fall in love with the monstrous Beast, it took me some effort to get through this book. The momentum of this story is it's weakest point, although the slow building, tentative connection between Beast and Beauty is one of its strongest. I also think the ending was a bit rushed, and would have liked a bit more explanation, as well as time to settle into and enjoy the changes that happen at the end.
Waiting and waiting to be introduced to the mysterious Beast, discovering the castle's secrets and watching this entire tale unfold piece by piece was a lot like sipping a full bodied red wine. It just can't be gulped. I could taste the weight of the story on my tongue, and the more I read, the more I savored it. Beauty isn't a book for when you're impatient for a quick read. However, it is a beautiful retelling and another reason to love the tale of Beauty and her Beast.
Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone, but McKinley did revisit the story of Beauty and the Beast from the beginning in another retelling called Rose Daughter.