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Tin @ Rabbitin’s review of Beauty convinced me enough to add the book on my reading list and when Alison @ The Cheap Reader announced Project: Fairy Tale, I took this opportunity to choose Beauty and the Beast and immediately grab a copy of Beauty. Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:
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.
Doesn’t the book cover look amazing? Both the title and the cover illustration project a common theme, giving us an idea of what the story would be all about. I seldom read fairy tale retellings before and I think Beastly was the only retelling of Beauty and the Beast that I had read. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up liking the book. But in this case, Beauty did not disappoint me.
As the title suggests, Beauty is the main character of the story. She’s actually named Honour, but after having a hard time understanding the meaning of her name as a child, she remarks that she’d rather be Beauty and so, since then, the name sticks. What I noticed from their names is that they are all named after virtues, with her sisters being named as Grace and Hope.
In comparison to the original tale, Beauty stayed true to it, but Robin McKinley adds more characters and gives it a little twist. I’m impressed by the way the author describes the settings, especially the part where she portrays the castle and the scene in the countryside where Beauty and her family reside. Readers will get a glimpse of how the castle looks like and also have a chance to be familiarized with the lifestyle of the countryside people and how differently they live from the city. Moreover, one can also see that they recognize the things that cannot be explained by reason – tales that involve magic and enchantments. I, for one, understand that it is not unusual for those to happen as I also hear childhood stories from my dad that unexplainable things happen in his hometown in the province, as well as from my cousins.
Moving on, the complexity in Beauty’s characterization makes the story more enjoyable to read – bringing depth into it. As ordinary and plain as she may describe herself, I still don’t think of Beauty as that. She holds something more beyond it and I admire her for that. And true enough, as she grows older, she definitely proves to become what she is named for. The interest she’s shown towards books and reading adds to my impression of her as someone who values knowledge more than anything. She prefers reading over socializing. It is known for a fact that the inferiority in the role of women is prominent before wherein their work are limited to childbearing, sewing, and other household chores whereas men are considered as the breadwinner of the family. In Beauty’s case, she becomes the opposite of it. Unlike her sisters who are graceful and ladylike, Beauty, on the other hand, is capable of doing jobs intended for men. She tends her own horse, Greatheart, helps Ger in his work, and dreams of studying in a University. With this said, she unknowingly begins to break the norm and somehow makes a change in the order of the society.
I would also like to point out something I observed while reading this book as well as the original tale. If one would try to notice, the Beast isn’t described in detail. No specific appearance is portrayed or described, just something hideous and ugly; thus, I guess this leads to people having different notions about the Beast, giving him different portrayals based on one’s imagination. However, I come to admire the fact that the Beast’s characterization is likable in terms of his personality. I love the way Beauty and Beast’s friendship slowly develops as time passes.
Add to that, I’m glad the book doesn’t just focus on Beauty and Beast’s relationship. All characters take on a significant role in the story and I can’t help but become invested in each one of them. For one, it’s nice to see that Beauty’s sisters are not the kind I’ve read about from the original tale. It’s surprising to see that they are good and love and treat Beauty well. In short, they’re all worth rooting for to a happy ending.
This enchanting story will definitely pull you right into the fantasy world of Beauty and Beast. I’m so immersed in this book as I devour page after page like I am transported in it, eager to be lost in that world. The book is written in a very-detailed descriptive narration to give readers a vivid picture of the story. It’s like Robin McKinley doesn’t want us to miss out on anything, letting us become witnesses of this wonderful story.
Overall, despite the fact that Beauty is similar to Beaumont’s version and stayed true to it, Robin McKinley is able to keep me interested up until the end. Regardless of the simplicity of the storyline, at the end of the day, Beauty will undoubtedly remind us of our childhood dreams where magic exists and where we become princes and princesses ourselves.