Beauty: A Retelling of the story of Beauty & The Beast

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006
by Robin McKinley #4

As subtly hinted at in the title, this is a retelling of the Beauty & The Beast fairy tale. It is a YA title, and was published originally in 1978. What I can't figure out is why I had never read it before! I was in prime fairy tale reading/ YA mode in 1978 (although Trixie Belden was probably getting the lions share of my attention whether she deserved it or not).

This is a great rendition of the story -- it has all of the elements that I always looked for in a fairy tale -- Beauty is smart, kind, brave, honorable, and appropriately freaked out (but not too freaked out). The Beast is kind of a cipher, but since this is all from Beauty's POV that makes sense. McKinley has wisely added a horse as an important character; she knows her intended audience very well. There are as many descriptions of fancy gowns, fabulous meals, out of season gardens, and enchanted castle business as a person could want, including moving staircases/rooms.

There was one bit at the beginning that struck me as being a little off with the establishment of Beauty as the plain but brainy one (her sisters are drop-dead gorgeous and kind, but not too bright), but it might have just been the mood I was in when I read it. And of course, by the time her miraculous growth spurt kicks in she is transformed to live up to her name in appearance as well as spirit. Anyway, I enjoyed it. Any problems I have with it are probably more appropriately taken up with the original story and not the lovely retelling that McKinley provides.
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