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.
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.
on October 28, 1999
This is one of the most gentle, loving, and subtle stories I have ever read, and takes the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale to the highest heights. Well-written, with a truly wonderful heroine and a fabulous beast, I read this book in grade school and, as a freshman in college, still pick it back up from the shelf.
The writing is very gentle and subtle, and all of the characters are sweet and kind (except for the cranky wizard, but he never actually makes an appearance); in fact, the characters are SO good and sweet they're almost parodies, and at times I feel restless and stifled by the dreamy sweetness of the novel. The whole novel is practically spun out of sugar, which can be irritating to readers who like a little more... oomph?
However, the take on the fairy tale is wonderful, the twists to the tale make it a classic, the two main characters are great, and the themes and views and personalities are complex and subtle. Great read for when you're in the mood for a little light confection!
on April 25, 2002
I strongly suspect that when the folks at Disney decided to make the "Beauty and the Beast" story into an animated film, they used this book as their template. McKinley's Beauty (real name Honour) is much like Belle in her love of books and horses, though much plainer in appearance and without the nuisance of a Gaston character.
Rarely is an author's first novel so worthy of praise. Her later novel "Rose Daughter," another retelling of the same fairy tale, is excellent but not, in my opinion, quite as endearing. Beauty is the youngest, smartest, and least attractive daughter of a successful widowed merchant. When her father's business falls on hard times, the family relocates to a village near an enchanted forest and spends the next few years embracing their newfound poverty. A trip back to the city from which they hail results in Father getting lost in the enchanted forest, where he encounters the Beast and is forced into a terrible bargain: the Beast will spare his life, if one of his daughters will come and live as the Beast's companion.
Beauty, arguably her father's favorite child, insists on being the expendable daughter and takes up residence in the Beast's magical castle. Over the course of months she befriends the curious creature, who fosters her love of books and slowly wins her confidence. But when Beauty makes a discovery that will vastly change the life of her eldest sister Grace, the Beast grants her a week at home...where she must finally come to terms with her true feelings for him, before her absence destroys him completely.
on May 31, 2002
Traditional fairy tales have always left me dissatisfied because they never went into enough depth and I was never able to really get to know the characters. However, Robin McKinley takes the old story and turns it around so that you understand why the heroine did what she did. Instead of the evil sisters so prevalent classic story telling, Beauty has two wonderful and supportive sisters. The background of the story is charming; it really moves the story along. McKinley removes any bitter aftertaste and ties up all of the lose ends, just like a writer should. This book far outshines the Disney movie and all of the other versions that I have read (though I noticed some of the same themes running in the movie as the book, I would not doubt that someone at Disney read it). I would recommend this book for anyone over the age of about 8ish, and if you're still hungry for more, "Rose Daughter" is Robin McKinley's other, more mature telling of "Beauty and the Beast," though I DO think that "Beauty" is better, fresher, and lighter. With the coming summer season, I would highly recommend "Beauty" for a good afternoon read.
The best-known and (perhaps) best-loved of Robin McKinley's books is also one of the best of the fairy-tale retellings. 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 she 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 a wild countryside.
The father leaves on a trip - and returns with a single rose, 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...
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 while the traditional Beauty has no personality beyond her looks, this one has brains and guts rather than a pretty face. She seems like a very real teenage girl from the opening pages onward; her gradual caring for the Beast is handled slowly and carefully, but never in a boring manner. 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. His sadness permeates every scene he's in.
Beauty's father and sisters are well-done also. Her dad isn't an idiot or a nasty person, but instead is haunted. The sisters are, thankfully, kind characters even though they are beautiful and Beauty is not (a common book trap that McKinley avoids). There's none of the cartoonish nastiness of many other fairy-tale type books. At the same time, they keep their respective personalities: One of them is happy, and the other still remembers sadly her lost boyfriend.
The writing ranges well, since we have 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. Dialogue is flawless: We don't have any stilted formal prose, but it never screams "modern American" either. By the same token, Beauty is not the usual female hero. Too often strong female characters either lapse into stereotypical women-warriors, raving feminazis, or cocky "tough" girls. Beauty is merely a strong female character -- she is merely herself. For parents, there is no objectionable content -- no smut, profanity, frightening scenarios, or objectionable themes.
McKinley never lapses into "WOW, will you look at THAT!" when we encounter such things as future classics in the library, or invisible servants. Awe is put where it should be, such as in Beauty's glimpses of the outside world. (Wanna bet that Disney clutched a few elements from this book?) Even those of you who dislike romance will enjoy "Beauty."
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.
on March 13, 2003
Title:Beauty:The retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
The famous French story of the Beauty and the Beast is retold,in a more unique and interesting form. The main character is Honour. She is not a beautiful as her two sisters, Grace and Hope. She becomes responsible for her father's actions and leaves her family to live with the Beast in the enchanted castle. Beast never imagined that Honour would be this way. Throught the book, they form a relationship that readers will never forget.
There were many thingss that I liked and disliked about this book. For example, I loved the way the author described Honour. The description made me feel as if I have known her for many years. I also like the fact that the story wasn't similar to the movie. There were old, different, and new characters. "I was the youngest of three daughters. Our literal-mother named us, Grace, ,Hope, and Honour, but few people except the minister, wh had baptized all three us, ,remembered my given name."
There were also things about the book that I disliked. For example, I disliked the way the author described Beast."Good evening,Beauty," Beast said with a harsh voice. He described him as someone who is rude and mean. Truley, Beast is warm and soft from the heart. He made him seem like someone who nobody wanted to live with. We all know that this is not true.
My favorite part of the book is when Honour first enters the castle. I was so excited when I read this part. "Like all of the other doors I had met in the castle, this one opened at my approach." You can just feel that something great is just about to happen in the castle. You know that she is going to have adventures in the castle. This was an excellent book!
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.
on December 10, 2000
In Beauty, an new version of the classic tale, Beauty and the Beast, Robin McKinley does a spectacular job of bringing the story to life. This being McKinley's first novel, it is a wonderful debut and it is destined to become a classic, much like the original tale. We are introduced to Honour, nicknamed Beauty when she is born. Beauty grows up as a wealthy city girl, the youngest of three daughters of the renowned shipping merchant, Roderick Huston. She grows up with everything she desires, as many books and as much horseback riding as she could ever want. Her sister's and herself have never known anything besides the wealth they were born into until one fateful day. Her father had sent out four ships, and it was that dreadful day that he was notified that all four were lost to the seas in a whirlwind of unexpected storms. Having no money left, Beauty, her two older sister's and their father are forced to sell almost everything they own and move out to the country with Beauty's new brother-in-law, Gervain, who had just married her sister, Hope. The family becomes accustomed to country living and have a very uneventful life for two calm yeasr until Father hears that one of his ships has survived and he feels that he must go to the city to find out more. When Father returns in the midst of a snow storm, he has a terrifying tale to repeat full of doom that is imminent. He tells his tale of being lost in the forest and somehow stumbling through the gates of an enormous castle. He finds himself being taken care of by invisible servants, but no master. The next day as he is about to return home, he spots a wonderful rose garden, and stops to pick a rose for Beauty. Enraged that his rose was plucked, the master of the castle emerges and Father finds himself faced with a horrible beast. The beast tells him that either he or one of his daughters must return within a month, or Father will meet his doom. Beauty tells the family that she is to go, and she does, knowing that she will never see her family again. She befriends the beast out of loneliness and eventually finds herself falling for the unlikely creature. Will she be the one to break the enchantments set upon this castle by a hateful magician more then two centuries past by falling in love and marrying the Beast?? "Will you marry me, Beauty?" (244). Read the book, and you shall discover the answer to that question and more. This is the second book I have read of Robin McKinley's and I have yet to be disappointed. She writes with strength and intelligence, weaving an old tale into a new and more entrancing novel. Her characters are extremely well portrayed and her descriptions are perfect. After reading the book you felt as if you knew the characters. I was thoroughly impressed with her version of one of my personal favorite tales, and recommend it to anyone that loves a fairy tale, and is a mush ball at heart!