Currently Reading: Beauty

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast“You are the one who does not understand, Papa,” I said. “We are not asking that I be killed in your stead, but that I be allowed to save your life. It is an honourable Beast at least; I am not afraid.” Father stared at me, as if he saw the Beast reflected in my eyes. I said: “He cannot be so very bad if he loves roses so much.”

“But he is a Beast,” said Father helplessly.

I saw that he was weakening, and wishing only to comfort him I said, “Cannot a Beast be tamed?”

Author: Robin McKinley

Synopsis: A wealthy man had three daughters: Grace, Hope, and Honour, nicknamed Beauty, though she did not consider herself so. When hard times destroy the family’s wealth—Grace’s fiancé, Robbie, disappearing with one of the ships—the father and sisters move into the mountains with Hope’s fiancé, Gervain. They mostly smile at the rumors of a monster and an enchanted castle in the forest near Ger’s home, until the father loses his way in the woods and meets the Beast... and thus begins the fairy tale.

Notes: I’ve been hearing about Robin McKinley for years now, and finally decided to get ahold of one of her books. As a fan of fairy tale retellings, I chose this one. Beauty convinced me that I need to read much more of McKinley’s work.

First, I just loved the writing. McKinley is a master of the antique elegance that naturally belongs to the fairy tale. Surprisingly, she pulls this off through first-person voice.

Second, I loved the characters. The Beast is mostly just grave and quiet—I would have taken more interest from him—but Beauty, Ger, Grace, the invisible housemaids Lydia and Bessie, and the horse Greatheart, are all strong and appealing personalities.

Third, I’ve read the Grimm version of this tale, and as far as I can recall, McKinley simply fills it out rather than taking it in odd or Disneyfied directions. I haven’t seen Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (I know, right?) but I’ve read its little book version to little kids, and this is not the same story.

The voice never slips, and the tale carries its loveliness through to the end.

Recommendation: This is a quiet, comforting sort of a story, one to read wrapped in a blanket with some steaming tea at hand.


  1. This wonderful book was the grandmother of the fairy tale retelling trend, now in full flower. You can see how much Disney appropriated it for their animated film.

    McKinley's work is uneven in appeal to me. I liked the two Blue Sword books and hoped for a third (hinted at in BS sequel, The Hero and the Crown); Rose Daughter is a more adult retelling of B&B, and it rather dragged for me. A Knot in the Grain is a good short story collection. Deerskin, originally an adult novel now marketed as YA, is a harrowing but terrific story I've not wanted to reread. I didn't care for The Outlaws of Sherwood, or her newest about vampires (too bloodyand quease-inducing; I didn't finish it).

    Of them all, I still like Beauty best and it's the one I've consistently reread. You're right--a perfect tea and fireplace story.

  2. Thanks! I'm very interested in the Blue Sword books; maybe I'll have to try those next of hers.

    It was wonderful to read a peaceful story, something that kept me interested but wasn't all harrowing and painful. That's too rare nowadays.


All comments are currently moderated. Friendly comments are welcomed with fairy music, magic wishes, and possible unicorn sightings. Troll comments will be Transfigured into decent-looking rocks or Vanished. Spam comments will be shot down with blasters.