Thursday, May 11, 2017


Beauty. Robin McKinley. 1978/1993. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I was the youngest of three daughters. Our literal-minded mother named us Grace, Hope, and Honour, but few people except perhaps the minister who had baptized all three of us remembered my given name.

Premise/plot: Beauty is a retelling of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. It is very much character driven. Beauty, the youngest, is the plain, no-thrills, practical daughter. She's not outstanding or amazing at anything in particular. She's a hard worker, almost Cinderella like. Her father is a dear, but not horribly developed. Her two sisters are pleasant as well. Again not horribly developed, but they are important to her so they're important to us. Over half the book takes place before her father steals a rose thereby endangering Beauty's freedom.

Beauty chooses the path of honor when her father is put into a dilemma. What she finds at the castle surprises her. It may surprise readers too. The castle is beautiful, just awe-inspiring. Her every need is met, almost her every desire. From their first meeting, she finds him well-mannered, kind, considerate, generous. He may be ugly, no woman's dream mate, but a beast he is not. He doesn't stomp around having tantrums. He doesn't yell or scream. He is practically perfect in every way.

Nearly every day ends the same: with a marriage proposal. This always is awkward for Beauty, but, the hours they spend in each other's company each day more than makes up for it. Within weeks, she couldn't imagine life without him.

The library. One of the enchantments of the castle is the fact that the library contains every book that will ever be written. Think about it: ever!!! Every book written past, present, future. This is the stuff of dreams!

The enchantments are mainly invisible and more subtle than Disney would have you believe. Voices mainly that she hears as she's drifting off to sleep.

My thoughts: I loved many things about the book. I loved that Beauty wasn't beautiful in a most beautiful woman in the world way. I loved that most of her appeal, most of her beauty was internal. She was also humble, meek, modest. I also loved that there was no villain. The sisters weren't vain, selfish, immature. There was no Gaston. No angry mob. No wolves even! This was an almost conflict free read.

I also liked the dream aspect of the book. The Beast sends her family true dreams every night so they see that she is happy and safe. He sends her dreams of her family--not as often--so that she can see they are doing well. He very much cares about them and her. He isn't lacking feeling, in fact, he seems a hundred times more compassionate than the average hero. He may need Beauty to agree to marry him to break the spell and restore his humanity. But he isn't redeemed by her. There is nothing beastly about his soul. She doesn't transform him, if anything, he transforms her.

Is it romantic? It depends on how you define romance. If it depends on flirting, longing, and smut...then no. Much more subtle in this one is the romance. Conversations. Reading aloud. Eating together. Riding horses. Walking together. Love sneaks up on her. She's almost the last to know her own heart.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


J.G. 6:35 AM  

What an interesting take on this "tale as old as time"! It's difficult for me to imagine a conflict-free story, although a villain-free story sounds quite nice.

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
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I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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