I’m a fan of fairy tale retellings. My favorite fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast – I love the original story, the Disney adaptation and a couple of retellings including Beauty by Robin McKinley.
Here’s the synopsis from Robin McKinley’s site:
Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are beautiful. 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 declares she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will.
I think I found out about Beauty in some of the forums that I used to browse in, I’ve forgotten where exactly. But I do know that I was looking for fairy tale retellings and since Beauty and the Beast is my favorite and it looked like Robin McKinley’s retelling is a classic, I thought I’d give it a try. I’m glad that I did. Beauty follows the pattern of the original story but with added complexities.
I like that Beauty is an ironic nickname for the character because she’s not as beautiful as her sisters, Hope and Grace. Her given name is Honour but when she was a child and her father tried to explain what it meant, she told her father “Huh! I’d rather be Beauty.” and the nickname stuck. Beauty is thin and awkward and is known for being “the clever one”. She likes to read and study and her dream is to become a scholar in the university.
Also another major difference from the original story is that Hope and Grace are not just beautiful but kind as well. All of the girls love each other and their merchant father. When the family encounters financial difficulties, they decide that their best option would be to move to the country and start a new life. They move to a small town in the country in a house beside a mysterious forest. Time passes and they learn to be content with their new life.
You know what happens next – the merchant father receives word that one of his ships survived and he needs to go back to the city to see to the business. He returns with a rose for Beauty and a story about a Beast in the forest who demands one of his daughters in exchange for his life. Beauty volunteers to go. In a castle somewhere in the forest, she meets the Beast. The rest, as they say, is history. Beauty is a retelling that doesn’t have twists that vary from the original story, it’s mostly a fleshed out version of the fairy tale. This is a good start for those who want to try reading fairy tale retellings but not for those who expect variations in the story. And I’d like to point out that this is YA (young adult), as are the other books that I’ve written about. I think that matters to some people.
Beauty is Robin McKinley’s first novel. She has another retelling of Beauty and the Beast entitled Rose Daughter and she also has a retelling of Sleeping Beauty entitled Spindle’s End. Check out her site for more details about her books. I plan to write something about The Blue Sword because it’s one of my favorites as well.
Other book details:
Availability: Beauty is available in some Fully Booked branches.
Thanks for reading this post! I hope that after reading this, you go ahead and buy a copy. To those who’ve read the book, what do you think? 🙂 Non-LJ users can leave anonymous comments.