by Robin McKinley
I first found this book at foodinbooks.com which is a wonderful blog that everyone should check out. Please see Vanessa’s review of Beauty and check out her ‘cinnamon almond cake’ by clicking the link provided above.
My review may contain spoilers…
Beauty is the youngest of three sisters. Their mother has passed on and now they live with their father. Beauty is an introvert and prefers reading books. She has very low self-esteem, dislikes her body, and feels that she doesn’t measure up to her sisters’ attractiveness. While she’s quite clever, she wishes she could also be beautiful and have more to offer like her sisters Hope and Grace who are both beautiful and kind.
After their father loses all the family income, they are forced to move to a new place near a mysterious woods. Ger, Hope’s soon-to-be husband, will be a smith there and help to support their family. After some time, news comes regarding one of their father’s lost ships. Their father plans a journey to discover what’s left of it, but there are stories of the woods and Ger has told the tales about how unsafe it is.
‘The story is the woods haunted. No, not haunted: enchanted. The stream flows out of the forest, as you see, so likely it’s enchanted to, if anything is. The first smith — well, tales vary. Perhaps he was a wizard. He was a good smith, but he disappeared one day. He’s the one built the house — said he liked the forest, and a forge needs a stream close by, and most of the town gets its water by well. The next smith — the one that left two years ago — dug the well we’ve got now, to prevent the waters enchanting him; but he didn’t like the noises the forest made after dark. Well, forests do make odd noises after dark. Anyway, he left. And they’ve had some trouble finding someone else. That’s how we got this place so cheaply: It’s very good for what we had to spend.’
When their father returns, he brings back a magic rose along with a story to go with it. It is said that he must return one of his daughters to a Beast’s castle or he will meet his death.
I thought the writing in this book was exquisite, in fact, it was the writing that pulled me in. It was just like reading a fairy tale as a child. The story itself stays fairly true to the original with only a few changes so, it’s quite predictable at times, which was fine. It’s rather slow the first half, and the story revolves around Beauty and her family mainly with how they’re getting along in their new place of living. Despite the slowness, I relished these parts because this family truly loves one another and takes care of each other, including the other sisters. They all do their part and beauty may be timid, but she isn’t lacking courage. The Beast isn’t even introduced until roughly half way through the story, which didn’t bother me one bit. I actually preferred the Beast in this book because he’s very generous and kind–offering beautiful clothing, delicious foods, books, and jewelry to Beauty. There isn’t anything he won’t do for her. In addition, he wants to share all of his wealth with her family and sends home thoughtful treasures to them all, most importantly, dreams about Beauty. It’s so heartwarming.
My only issue was the ending which felt rushed and there just wasn’t enough explanation of the enchantment. Was beauty also changed (to look more beautiful like her mother), or was her self-esteem just magically fixed? Why couldn’t she just stay the way she was because the Beast loved her that way and from the very beginning felt that she was beautiful. I wanted Beauty to gain self-esteem naturally without this instant fix and surely not become remodeled by an enchantment whisking her away from her supposed ‘ugliness.’ It also seemed weird that when Beast changed back to a prince, he was then aged with gray-streaked hair, while Beauty was not. It was unclear what ages they were because Beauty was only in her teens and the Beast would now be in his forties. These things niggled me. Maybe I’m missing something, but I did reread the ending twice and this was a similar situation previously with her mother and father’s marriage. Regardless, it’s still a happy ending and I certainly won’t tear the book apart and rate it low because the ending wasn’t written the way I wanted it to be.
Overall, I loved this retelling all the way to the end. I’m happy to have read it and will be on the lookout for more books by Robin McKinley.
- Hardcover: 259 pages
- Publisher: Gardners Books (March 31, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385604807
- ISBN-13: 978-0385604802
Beauty has always been embarrassed by her nickname – she is plain and awkward compared to her two elder sisters, Hope and Grace. But what she lacks in beauty she can perhaps make up for in courage.
When their merchant father returns from a failed business trip to the city where they once lived, he tells his daughters a strange tale: how on his way home he lost himself in a winter storm, and stumbled out of it into the summer garden of a magical castle. Innocently he picks a rose, and a fearsome Beast roars at him that his life is forfeit… unless one of his daughters will take his place.
He will not hear of it when Beauty declares that she will return to the castle in his stead, but she is determined to go. ‘He cannot be so bad if he loves roses so much’, she says. ‘Cannot a Beast be tamed?’
This is a captivating retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast from an award-winning author.
This is book #1 for my 2019 Retellings Reading Challenge. You can view it by clicking the image below.