Banner created and designed by Alisa @ Picture Me Reading
After reading Beauty and Rose Daughter (both books written) by Robin McKinley, I moved on to another Beauty and the Beast retelling entitled Belle by Cameron Dokey. Here’s the summary from the back cover of the book:
Belle is convinced she has the wrong name, as she lacks her sisters’ awe-inspiring beauty. So she withdraws from society, devoting her time to wood carving. Secretly, Belle longs to find the fabled Heartwood Tree. If carved by the right hands, the Heartwood will reveal the face of one’s true love.
During a fierce storm, Belle’s father stumbles upon the mysterious Heartwood — and encounters a terrifying and lonely Beast. Now Belle must carve the Heartwood to save her father, and learn to see not with the eyes of her mind, but with the eyes of her heart.
Both Beauty and Rose Daughter impressed me so much that I had high expectations for this one, hoping it’ll be as good as the other two books. Unfortunately, though, I guess I expected too much. With that said, perhaps you’ve already figured it out that I didn’t very much enjoy this book.
To start off, Belle is merely a part of the Once Upon A Time series of retold tales written by various authors. So if you guys happen to be looking for fairy tale retellings, you might try looking into the titles under this series. I believe the books are catered to younger readers.
Now, moving on to the story, the book begins with the definition of beauty. In Annabelle’s (Belle for short) case, beauty and Beauty are entirely two different things. Emphasizing on Beauty (take note of the capital B), Belle doesn’t want to be just beauty, but Beauty instead, like her sisters. She further elaborates that the ordinariness beauty brings will not make her stand out and be Beautiful. She even compares the process of how they’re named in relation to the time they were born to their beauty – her sisters being named as Celestial Heavens and April Dawn, whereas she was just named Annabelle Evangeline, born on an ordinary day at an ordinary time, named after her grandmothers.
The beginning of the story already gives out a negative impression on me since what Belle only does is rant and complain about her name and physical appearance. As the story progresses, it worsens and somehow, I feel like I want to slap her and make some sense out of her.
What’s more disappointing is that there’s no character development in the main characters. I am impressed, however, at the fact that Belle’s sisters have changed to be better and adapted well when they moved to the country. But as for Belle and the Beast, their relationship isn’t able to develop well enough and although the Beast is also portrayed as the kind and gentle creature, Belle couldn’t see that and she doesn’t seem to allow any room for growth and improvement. Her insecurity and low self-esteem cloud her potential to be a dynamic character like Beauty from Robin McKinley’s books; therefore, making the story a bit shallow, lacking substance and depth.
Belle also shows to be immature in terms of her way of thinking and how she reacts to certain situations. As much as she becomes confused with her feelings, I am also confused by her personality. She will do or say one thing and then she’ll contradict herself after. I also find it weird that relationships are possible without having to see each other face to face when conversing. But I guess this is also Cameron Dokey’s way of retelling the story about love through symbolism – in this case, to be able to see the other through the eyes of the heart.
Overall, Belle is a short and easy read as compared to McKinley’s books. I enjoy reading the inspiring story behind the legendary Heartwood Tree, and truthfully speaking, I feel that it’s better than Belle’s story in general. Yes, I won’t deny that true love is defined in the book, but the way it’s represented seems problematic. The ending is also a bit rushed and I don’t know, somehow, the essence of real beauty and virtue over appearance – the real message intended by the original tale of Beauty and the Beast to its readers – cannot be found here. I’m just disappointed that the book leaves me unsatisfied in the end.