Monday, 18 October 2010

Beauty - Robin McKinley

Beauty is a retelling of the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley. It was released on 4th March 2004 by Corgi Childrens and it is 259 pages long.

The Beauty in this story isn't actually called that. Her real name is Honour. As a child, she decided that she didn't really like her name and picked her nickname, Beauty, herself and it stuck. Unlike her sisters, she doesn't think that she is actually beautiful and thinks she is the plain sister out of the three. She is also not very girly and likes reading and horses rather than being interested in finding a man to marry.

When her fathers shipping business has problems, they family are forced to sell nearly everything they own. They put together their money with one of Beauty's sisters' fiancé and move away to the country. Although things are hard to begin with, everyone learns to cope but then their father goes away on a trip to make some more money. He is away for months and months but when he returns, he does so with treasures for everyone and the most beautiful rose for Beauty. As one of the petals falls, it turns into gold and Beauty wants to know why. Her father begins to explain to the family about his trip.

On the way back home, he got lost in the woods in the middle of a storm and stumbled across a huge castle. It seemed that no one was home but the doors opened themselves and let him in. There, he recovered for the night and set off to get home. As he is leaving the castle though, he sees the amazing garden, full of perfect roses and harmlessly picks one for his daughter. As he does, the owner of the castle, the Beast, roars and demands to know why. The Beast has shown nothing but hospitality and he is repaid with selfishness and greed. The Beast makes a deal that either he can give up his life for picking the rose or his daughter can come to the castle in his place in order to save his life. Beauty agrees to go to the castle in his place but when she gets there, she realises that everything is not as it seems and the Beast really isn't one at all.

What I thought
What I loved about this one was that we got to know about Beauty's family and the reasons behind why she had to go live with the Beast. She showed a lot of courage when she told her father that she would go to the castle to save his life. She is very determined to get what she wants and firmly believes that she is doing the right thing. Some have said that Beauty is too obsessed with how she looks but I don't think this was how it was at all. She doesn't think she is beautiful at all, she thinks she is quite plain and boring but she really doesn't mind. Beauty seems happy enough in her own world of books and learning that she doesn't yearn to be like her sisters. I would have liked it if at the end of the story, she gave up a bit more of a fight when she realises that her looks have changed but I wasn't too opposed to that part.

The Beast isn't the same as he is in the Disney film at all. The basics to his story are still the same, like the fact that he has a curse put upon him and it will take something spectacular to break it. He tells Beauty's father that he will never harm her so she isn't particularly scared of him at any point. He is very wary about spending time with Beauty at times because of what he is and the things that she believes in. It was so interesting to watch Beast grow and become more human by the day when Beauty makes him do things like turn his own pages of a book and eat things that she does.

I felt like this version of the story was a lot more magical than I had expected. Unlike in the film where the household items became enchanted too, they were invisible this time and that added a whole lot of mystery. You have no real idea who or what is doing everything around the house apart from when Beauty begins to hear the voices. She knows that something is going on but cant figure out what she has to do.

The only thing that I didn't like about the story was the fact that from the first time Beast meets Beauty, he asks her to marry him and continues to do so every single day. I understand that time was running out and he needed to get her to fall in love with him but he didn't even give her any time at all to get to know him. This would have annoyed me more than anything else and I would have wanted to spend less time with him instead of more.

Overall, this is an amazing story that has a lot more depth and wonder than the original. I'm not quite sure what age range this is aimed at but I am 24 and I loved it.


Janet Johnson said...

This is one of my favorite books. I enjoyed your review. Did you know the 2004 version is a reprinting? It was first published in 1978. Amazing, huh? Robin McKinley is amazing!

Dazzling Mage said...

Robin McKinley writes the most beautiful retellings. This one is my favorite. Great review.

Midnyte Reader said...

I read this a long time ago and loved it. I loved the sections where the sister becomes a baker (If I'm remembering correctly). I enjoyed reading your take on it.

Nicky said...

This sounds like a great book and I have now listed it as something to read. I can't belive it was originally published in 1978.
Great review you have really sold this book to me.

Michelle Fluttering Butterflies said...

I read this one a few years ago and really loved it. I've had Spindle's End on my TBR shelf for AGES and really must get around to it..

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