Friday, December 22, 2017

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley

He cannot be so bad if he loves roses so much.
But he is a beast, said Father helplessly.
Cannot a beast be tamed? (p. 139)
Beauty was a perfect book to read after Tolkien's On Fairy Stories. So many of the elements of "the land of Faërie" are present: the good catastrophes, the secondary world that requires spiritual eyes for seeing, and the Joy of sudden grace.

Beauty was named as a baby but has grown into a gawky teenager. She's smart, but not pretty. Wikipedia describes McKinley's heroines as feminists, but I didn't sense that the heroine in this story was out to prove anything. Unless loving books and not being gorgeous make you a women's libber.

The novel is surprisingly literary: Our father, bless him, didn't seem to notice that there was an egregious, and deplorable difference between his first two daughters and his youngest. On the contrary, he used to smile at us over the dinner table and say how pleased he was that we were growing into such dissimilar individuals; that he always felt sorry for families who looked like petals from the same flower. (p. 15)

I picked up my skirts and ran upstairs to my room as if Charon himself had left his river to fetch me. (p. 293) And, I could see the morning star shining like hope from the bottom of Pandora's box. (p. 296)

Obviously, the author loves the classics since there are many references to great literature sprinkled throughout (with a dash of Jane Eyre and a little bit of the Ugly Duckling thrown in for good measure.) Beauty loves the Greek classics. The beast's library is so magical that it includes books that haven't even been printed yet. (How fun!) Beauty revels in the stories of Sherlock Holmes and the poetry of Robert Browning although she can't understand some of the realities of their time periods.

I was very world weary when reading this book which may explain why my tears came easily at the most poignant points of the story. It seems likely that those who wrote/filmed the 1991 Disney version must have read McKinley's book (published in 1978) because they had many of the same images. But the book was better.

Pure literary comfort food.



Carol said...

I really enjoyed this story too & thought the writing was very good.

Amy Marie said...

I too really enjoyed this retelling! Merry Christmas! :)

Farm Girl said...

I am so glad you read this because I read it years ago and I was looking for it and I couldn't remember the author. It is my favorite as well. Have a lovely Christmas. I hope you have a wonderful 2018 filled with good books.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I’ve been aware of this one for ages but have never read it. I might add it to my 13 yo’s spring list!