Monday, June 24, 2013

Beauty By Robin McKinley

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
by Robin McKinley
Read: June 18 - 22, 2013
Published: October 25, 1978 by HarperCollins
Source: Library
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)



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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.


18 comments:

  1. I have a favorite fairy tale, too (The Twelve Dancing Princesses) but Beauty and the Beast definitely seems to fit you. Not sure this one is for me, but I love fairy tale retellings, so maybe I will give it a try.

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    1. OH OH! I love The Twelve Dancing Princesses as well! This one might be slow for you? Beautiful story, but there are other retellings of this fairytale if this one isn't for you!

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  2. Beauty and the Beast is actually my very favorite fairytale, and I'm obsessed with finding and reading retellings of it! I hadn't heard of this one before (I fail), but I'm a little worried about the momentum. The fact that she doesn't even get to the castle until 100 pages in makes me think I'm going to have to wait until I'm in a very patient mood to pick this book up. Still, it sounds like it's a story worth savoring, lovely review Lauren!

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    1. I'm falling more and more in love with this story! I'm also excited about several retellings coming out in the future. Though I actually liked HEART'S BLOOD by Juliet Mariller better than this one, I did enjoy this book.

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  3. This is one of my favorite books of all time, so I get a little thrill whenever I see someone discover and read it.

    It is slower paced, but I find her writing so worth it. I love McKinley's Beauty. I love how smart and practical and real she is. And I love watching that smart, practical, real girl discover the magic of the Beast's castle.

    His library will always be one of my happy places.

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    1. I love the way you describe this book! And I'll agree that it is worth the effort to get through the book. Also, YES that library is to DIE FOR. One of the best enchantments. <3 I wonder if it would always be like that?

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  4. The pacing sounds as though it's something I'd struggle with a good bit. Frankly, I'm a speed reader, so if something doesn't capture me from the start, I tend to be a bit finnicky, even though I know I shouldn't be. That said, it also sounds exceptionally well-written and that could just be enough to make up for the flaws! Wonderful review, Lauren :)

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    1. it IS a struggle at times to deal with the pacing, Melissa. But there is some great payoff. I'm also usually a speed reader. BUT I do love a classic, and those usually slow me down, so I read it like I would one of them. But there are a lot of other retellings coming out in the next year - though not as traditional as this, which is one of its draws. As I said above to Steph, I also loved Heart's Blood by Juliet Mariller.

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  5. I mam so glad that your first experience with McKinley was (for the most part)a positive one! Like we talked about as you were reading this book, McKinley can be frustrating to some readers because she absolutely DOES her take her time in her writing. Interestingly enough, my fave McKinley book Sunshine starts out with a bang, but then slows down considerably during the middle of the book before speeding back up again during the last third. The reason why I can put up with that in her writing, whereas other's might lose me, is because the woman is the MASTER at setting a scene and world building. The wait is always worth it:) So glad you checked this one out, L:)

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  6. Yay I'm so glad you read and enjoyed this, and that you've read some Robin McKinley. I've read both Beauty and Rose Daughter, and Beauty is definitely a more traditional retelling and faithful to the original tale - but I'd encourage you to pick up Rose Daughter at some point as well! McKinley takes many more liberties with that story and it's also really well done. I like the comparison you made between reading this book and sipping a full-bodied red wine; it's definitely an apt comparison. McKinley builds everything up slowly, but I feel as though that gives me more of a chance to connect with the characters, the story, etc.

    P.S. If you're ever in need of more Beauty and the Beast retellings, I'd be happy to provide you with some suggestions. :)

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  7. I love retellings! Beauty and the beast is my favorite ever fairytale and I always get so excited over it. I like that the romance was slow-building and gradual, but I'm not a patient reader at all. Beast getting introduced after 100 or so pages will really bore me, but I like that the story has enough action and adventure to negate that. I'll definitely check it out! Great review, Lauren!

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  8. I had the same issue with The Blue Sword by McKinley as well - it was SO slow. I think she's a talented writer, but her books aren't for me. I have a feeling I'd still enjoy Heart's Blood more, but thanks for the helpful review! :)

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  9. I do love Beauty and the Beast, but I don't think I've read a retelling yet that really did the story justice. Sounds like this one might be up for the challenge, though. I think my favorite retelling yet was Entwined by Heather Dixon, which was a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. That's still one of my favorite fairy tales to read to my daughter.

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  10. I loved this book! I'm so happy you read it, even though it was kind of slow. I definitely see your points, but also agree that it's a lovely book :) It is a great retelling, probably my favorite or at least on the top of the list!

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  11. I haven't read any McKinley yet either, but I desperately need to! This one's near the top of my list, but since I own Sunshine, it will likely be second. I kind of love that it's one of those stories to take in slowly, and I honestly hadn't realized she'd revisited the tale in another book! How unusual.

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  12. I'm so happy you enjoyed your first McKinley! I haven't read this one yet, but I'm thrilled to hear that the retelling worked and that your patience was rewarded. I love the wine comparison, I often find that the stories that are best savored slowly leave the most lasting impression on me. Great review!

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  14. YESSSSSSSS.

    Robin McKinley definitely does not rush and I love her all the more for it.

    Also love this book.

    and this review.

    I am just filled with love today ha ha.

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