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on June 26, 2004
Robin McKinley has a talent to recreate the fantasy worlds of childhood bedtime literature and make them fullblooded novels that any respectable reader will enjoy. Of all her fairytale remakes that I have read, this is my favorite.
The story is well known, a young woman is more or less promised to a beast and transforms him. But there is so much more than that in Beauty.
Beauty, or Honor, as she was named, is a young, 'ugly' woman whose father is destroyed publicly when his shipping company collapses. He and his two other daughters, Grace and Hope, and Beauty all move to the countryside to live with Hope's fiance, Ger. They adapt to the quiet country life--Ger works as a blacksmith and their father does wordworking. After the first couple of days there, Ger tells Beauty not to go into the woods, because they are more or less haunted by what seems to be an old "bogey-man" story.
When Beauty's father gets called back to town with news that one of his presumably lost ships has returned, he leaves the family for a short while. His return, with saddle bags filled with goods--golds and necklaces and dresses, is in the dead of a wintry night and he brings back a perfect rose, the one thing Beauty asked him for when he left. The rose, taken from the Beast, is a symbol of a promise, and it is Beauty who fulfills that promise, going to the Beast in her father's stead.
The romance is beautiful and eloquently expressed. To make a Beast, which would be seen through our eyes as an animal, into a man as an author must have been a challenging task, but Robin McKinley did a wonderful job. As a fairy tale retelling, this one is definitely at the top.
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on June 7, 2004
This is Robin McKinley's version of "Beauty and the Beast", told with her excellent grasp of the written word.
Wonderful prose; wonderful characterization of Beauty and her family (a point I have often found lacking in almost all "Beauty and the Beast" versions.). In this version, we are made to understand how Beauty's family could give her up to a terrible Beast, how human they are in the face of such unexplainable enchantment, how they react to the surreal events of their lives when it comes to loss. I appreciate this part of the book where her sisters and father are actually people who have volume, not just mentioned characters who seem so heartless and greedy giving up their sister to such an uncertain fate.
The beast was intriguing, but as with most of Robin McKinley's male characters who happen to be her heroine's love interest, they are weakly developed, or at least half-baked. Which is strange because all the rest of the male characters come pretty strong.
Now, while generally, Beauty in this tale isn't the typical Beauty of the tales we've already heard, the retelling, as a whole, really doesn't divert much from the original. While I realize that this could be a good thing, I was hoping for something fresh; a twist of sorts, like the way "Spindle's End" was told. Unfortunately, this came off with the same impact as McKinley's "The Outlaws of Sherwood".
I would recommend "Beauty and the Beast" for first time visitors of the old tale. I would recommend this book to those who want to understand the motives behind Beauty's family. I would not recommend this book to someone looking for a fresh take.
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The best-known and best-loved of Robin McKinley's books is also one of the best of the fairy-tale retellings -- "Beauty," a more enlightened, fully-drawn version of "Beauty and the Beast." There's a depth and a richness to the story and characterizations, as well as a beauty of atmosphere and writing.

Beauty (real name is "Honour") is the ironically-named heroine of the story -- she isn't beautiful, but is very intelligent. She has two sisters, the beautiful Hope and Grace, and a benevolent, wealthy father. Then all their lives change suddenly: the ships their father owns are lost, and the money goes with them. One of the sisters marries a poor but worthy country lad, while the other lost her beloved fiancee who captained one of the ships. After selling their possessions the family moves to the countryside.

The father leaves on a trip -- and returns with a single rose, a gift for Beauty, which carries the price of either his life or his daughter. Beauty leaves to go live at the castle of the mysterious Beast, with only her plowhorse to accompany her. She arrives at a castle of invisible servants, magical books, friendly animals, and a melancholy Beast who asks her to marry him every evening...

There is nothing new in fairy tale retellings now, but when McKinley first wrote "Beauty," it was a relative rarity. And even now, few of them are as intelligently written and have such solid heroines. Rather than giving her story a contrived "twist," McKinley merely fleshes out the storyline and gives the characters personalities.

The writing is excellent; McKinley writes the more prosaic passages of cottage life and the surrounding friendly village, as well as the more dreamlike, fantastical scenes in the Beast's castle. Lots of atmosphere, either in the poor but warm surroundings of the house, or the eerie feel of the castle.The dialogue is nearly flawless: McKinley doesn't write ye-olde-formal prose, but the characters never sound -- or think -- like modern Americans.

Beauty is a great heroine -- brainy, kind, wry-humored, brave and strong. Though the "Beauty" element is discarded, it is done so with the apparent understanding that this "Beauty" has brains and guts rather than a pretty face. The Beast himself is a little more shadowy; we never get inside his head the way we do Beauty's, but then the book is hers, not his. Beauty's father and sisters are equally well-done, avoiding the cliches of nastiness in favor of being likable or haunted.

Robin McKinley's debut "Beauty" is still among the best-loved fairy-tale retellings. With the help of a gutsy, brainy heroine, it rises above a mere retelling and becomes THE retelling.
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on May 26, 2004
Beauty is the nickname (real name Honour) of the youngest of three daughters of a prominent merchant. When the father's business falls on hard times, Beauty and her two older, more beautiful, sisters move with their father to a meager cottage on the edge of a thick forest. The forest, they soon learn, has a sinister reputation. The father is lost in the woods and takes refuge in a mysterious castle where the Beast lives. Beauty's father takes a rose as a gift for her, and the Beast demands payment of Beauty as compensation. Fearful at first, Beauty comes to know the Beast over the months she lives in the castle. Eventually, Beauty admits that she loves the Beast and the spell is broken. The Beast is now a handsome, rich nobleman in a castle full of servants. Over the course of her stay, Beauty has grown older, taller and beautiful. I only wish the story had continued on to show how the couple copes with their new circumstances. One especially delightful touch is Beast's magical library, which contains books not yet in existence, like Bleak House.
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on March 24, 2004
I'm 23 yaers old with the heart of a child. I still love fairy tales and this was my first experience in a retteling. It's masterfully written.
In this account of "Beauty and the Beast" the heroine Honor, whose nickname is Beauty, is the daughter of a wealthy merchant that lost his fortune. Beauty's family has to move to a far away village into a small country cottage. In a simple country living, this loving family, and three loving sisters; Beauty, Grace an Hope; learn to be happy with what they have. Then Father goes away on a trip and returns with mourful news. Beauty must go into the Beast's castle or Father will die...
Written in a simple fluid way, this novel presents Beauty's courage to face her fear of Beast. Beast's loliness for 200 years is poignant but his gentleness and kindness shows us that true beauty lies within. As the novel goes on the caracter's learn to understand each other and love each other as they are.
The caracter's are well developed and you can easily identify with them. The plot is a little changed from the originall french tale but the changes a well made and add to the book. My highest compliments. This is Robin Mckinley's best book.
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on March 18, 2004
Down here in good ol' NC, we don't get many Good Books in our libraries. So I often resort to the Ya Lit fantasy section. Out of all the books there, Beauty is one of the best.
Robin McKinley is usually hailed for her two Damar books, The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword, but Beauty is almost as good. It was McKinley's first novel, and possibly one of her best.
Beuty is the misfit in her family. Her older sisters, Grace and Hope, have curly blonde hair and limpid eyes. Beauty, whose given name is the rather lackluster Honor, is an undersized brunette with large hands, gawky feet, and spotty skin. Fortunately for her, her father is kind and her sisters love her.
Her life forever changes when her father's business goes bust and they are forced to move out into the country. They end up living in a house that is right up against a deep wood that has legends surrounding it, a wood that is rumored to house a terrible monster...
You know the story from there. But McKinley puts a fresh new spin on an old favorite, and the result is amazing. Although the writing is a bit spotty at times, that is to be expected from a first novel. Sometimes McKinley seems a bit detached, but her details are lush and she makes the relationship between the Beast and Beauty seem not only believable but quite likely. The little spin on the reason the Beast was enchanted in the first place is a stroke of near genius. All in all, an excellent effort from the reigning queen of fantasy.
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on February 14, 2004
What would happen if you took the flat fairytale of Beauty and the Beast, and fleshed it out into a three dimensional fantasy tale of a young girl who loves her father and her family enough to do anything to save them?
Beauty, by Robin McKinley is what you would get. Beauty�s life starts out wonderful enough, daughter of a well-to-do merchant and ship-owner, living in luxury with him and her two sisters, Hope and Grace. When her father�s entire fleet is lost, he makes plans to settle his debts and retire to the country with what little remained to him. Grace had lost her love Robbie on one of the ships, and Hope�s secret love Gervain, who was nothing more than an ironworker in Father�s shipyard, steps forward to tell of a place to be had for little money in his hometown of Blue Hill.
He offers to travel with them back to his hometown and set up a blacksmith�s shop with Father, and they all agree to do this. Blue Hill is a far cry from the city from where the girls came, and they struggle to fall into a routine of work that they are unaccustomed to. Beauty was the youngest, but also the strongest, and she was the one who took on the rougher, outdoor chores, leaving her sisters to care for the household. Life continues, Hope marries Gervain, who superstitiously warns everyone to never venture into the woods behind their cabin at any time.
Comes the day Father gets word of one of his ships coming in, returns to the city, and on his way back, of course, gets lost in the woods where he runs into the estates of the Beast. The fairytale bargain is struck, and Beauty agrees to take her father�s place at the Beast�s grand palace to keep him company.
McKinley tells a beautiful, fully fleshed out story here, far more than the fairy tale with loveable characters, believable events, comedy and tragedy and love. If you need a break from life for awhile, pick up Beauty and give it a whirl. Enjoy!
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on February 3, 2004
Beauty is a wonderfully solid reworking of the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast, with a strong, intelligent (and independent!) heroine, a charmingly gruff Beast, a fun plot and a crew of hilarious-but-believable -- supporting characters.
The tale is told in first-person by Beauty herself, who was originally called Honor. As a child, she wrinkles her nose at being named after a high virtue, and is subsequently stuck with a prettier, more materialistic nickname -- which she comes to regret as she gets older and wiser. She notes, wryly, that her appearance doesn't quite live up to it.
This is where we get to the first of many changes McKinley has made to the tale -- and for the better. Beauty comes from a healthy family, with sisters who are as charming, steady, and upright as their originals were not, and their father is just the sort of man who will go on a long trek to bring each of his daughters that which she likes best. When disaster strikes, he feels worse over the fact that he is forced to return almost empty-handed, than he does at the fact that he is financially ruined.
Of course, Beauty must leave them -- this much of the story stays the same, naturally -- and the bulk of her story takes place at the Beast's enchanted, and haunted, castle. Her meeting with the Beast is spectacular, as is the evolution of their relationship, occuring so naturally and seamlessly that you can't help but fall in love with the two yourself, as they fall in love with each other. The castle servants, here turned into invisible 'helping hands' are chatty, hilariously pushy characters.
All in all a great read. One of the books I am proud to own!
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on October 19, 2003
robin McKinley's first novel is so amazing it is hard to believe this is her first one. The story is in much contrast with the classic French tale. Beauty is actully not nearly as beautiful as her two kind and clever sisters, no matter what her nickname might lead you to believe. As Beauty grows up and acknowledges her plainess, she begins to dwell instead on books. After the end of their father's fortune, Beauty and her family move into an old smith's house near an enchanted wood. Their new life requires hard work but is very satisfying. Ona journey home, Beauty's father takes the forbidden rose and must send Beauty to the Beast's castle. Believing she will be of no loss to the family, Beauty travels to the Beast's magical palace. She ten discovers that the Beast is kind, clever, thoughtful, and caring, despite his looks. Beauty slowly learns to enjoy the Beast's companionship and comes to care for him. When she confronts the true feelings of her heart, the curse is broken. This is a wonderful piece of literary art. Robin McKinley has cast a spell over this classic fairytale, making it a book you will come to treasure forever.
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on July 17, 2003
Of all fairytales, my favorite has always been Beauty and the Beast. In every version Beauty is brave and loving. Rather than wait helplessly for someone else to set things to rights, she takes action to save her father from the strange fate brought upon him by her simple request for a rose.
In this telling, Beauty is not a victim of her sisters' spite and selfishness as in the traditional tale. They too are brave and loving, and dote upon their little sister. The family is close and protective of one another, and all of their reactions are logical and understandable, due to the author's skill at characterization and her excellent ear for the spoken word. The characters come alive within Robin McKinley's fine, graceful prose.
Beauty, her sisters Grace and Hope, their father, and all the other characters in the 'ordinary' world outside the Beast's enchanted forest are described in vivid detail, as well as their surroundings. Likewise, the Beast's castle and its vast grounds are clear in the mind's eye.
We cannot accurately 'see' the Beast, for his appearance is like the vague horror of a nightmare, but we can 'hear' him very clearly. His voice is rough, but he speaks kindly and gently, and his terrible sadness touches Beauty's heart -- and the reader's.
I have re-read this book many times, and I cannot praise it enough. It was an instant classic, and I recommend it to anyone who loves magic and romance, and a heart-warming, great read.
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