Beauty is written by Robin McKinley and was published in 1978 by Harper Trophy. It is a retelling of the classic story Beauty and the Beast, and McKinley’s first (she retold the story in a different way in her later book Rose Daughter). McKinley’s website can be found here.
“Sixteen-year-old Beauty has never liked her nickname. Thin, awkward, and undersized, with big hands and huge feet, she has always thought of herself as the plainest girl in her family—certainly not nearly as lovely as her elder sisters, Hope and Grace. But what she lacks in looks, she makes up for in courage. When her father comes home one day with the strange tale of an enchanted castle in the wood and the terrible promise he has made to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows what she must do. She must go to the castle and tame the Beast—if such a thing is possible…”
“The Beast thought for a moment and then said: “I will spare your miserable life on one condition: that you will give me one of your daughters.”
“Ah!” cried Father. “I cannot do that. You may think me lacking in honour, but I am not such a cruel father that I would buy my own life with the life of one of my daughters.”
The Beast chuckled grimly. “Almost I think better of you, merchant. Since you declare yourself so bravely I will tell you this for your comfort: Your daughter would take no harm from me, nor from anything that lives in my lands,” and he threw out an arm that swept in all the wide fields and the castle at their centre. “But if she comes, she must come here of her own free will, because she loves you enough to want to save your life—and is courageous enough to accept the price of being separated from you, and from everything she knows. On no other condition will I have her.”
Recommended Age Range: 12+
What I Liked:
I love Robin McKinley and I love Beauty and the Beast. This is a fantastic retelling of that story. The back story is well-done, enabling the reader not just to care about Beauty, but about her family as well. Once Beauty gets to the castle, the relationship that develops between her and the Beast is developed well, allowing for that wonderful ending that we all know so well to really pack a beautiful punch. As soon I finished this book I wanted to read it again.
I also like that McKinley actually doesn’t describe the Beast overly much. She simply calls him “the Beast” and describes his claws, but there is no description as to what he actually looks like except for his long hair. This leaves it up to the reader’s imagination and adds to the mysterious, enchanting nature of the castle. Also, the Beast himself is so sad throughout most of the book that you just want to give him a hug (don’t worry, he has his Beast moments, too).
What I Didn’t Like:
While I love the ending, it has its confusing moments (such as, how did Robbie get from six months away from her family to riding up with them to the castle? How did her family get there so fast?) Luckily, it can all be explained away by one word: magic.
Anyone who loves Beauty and the Beast will love this book. It is one of the better retellings that I’ve read. It’s a beautiful, wonderful book with lovely characters and a classic romance.
Coming Up Next: Breaking Beauty by Jennifer Shaw Wolf. This will be up next Friday, as I will be gone on Tuesday.