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Monday, July 04, 2005

cover of Beauty

This book, as the title suggests, is a novelization of a beloved fairy tale. McKinley doesn't offer any major twists or revisions-- she just fleshes out the characters, makes them real and believable, and gives them human motivations. Some friends have expressed the feeling that the ending is a little bit "over the top", but I was young when I first read it, and loved it pretty much from start to finish, so I find it hard to dislike the fabulous ending even the tiniest bit.

The character of Beauty in this book bears a remarkable resemblance to many of the other women in McKinley's writing (most of whom she actually precedes)-- she's a tall (at times ungainly or awkward), stubborn, tomboy of a girl who loves horses and books (both of which are important in her relationship to Beast), is terrible at sewing and other more traditionally feminine pursuits, but inexplicably loves roses (it is called for in the plot, after all). It doesn't seem like all those characteristics should all belong to one person, but when I'm reading the book, I believe it-- and it also seems that Beauty's very uniqueness is what makes her capable of loving and saving her Beast.

I wanted to re-read McKinley's two explicits versions of the Beauty & the Beast story after reading Sunshine again, because I think there is a continuity between them. It would be reductive to say that Sunshine is merely another Beauty & the Beast story (does a story just need a woman and some kind of monster to qualify? What about Aerin fighting the dragon Maur in McKinley's Hero and the Crown, does that count?), because it is certainly much more than that. Whatever the case may be, I sense some connections between Sunshine and McKinley's two Beauty & the Beast stories, Beauty and Rose Daughter.

The character of Sunshine definitely has some of this Beauty's stubbornness, and it is one of her strengths. Beauty is written in first person, and re-reading it this time, I found some hints of a voice a little like Sunshine's-- but McKinley's more mature work has a greater depth, and seems much freer.

This book also contains one of my favorite lines about story-telling, when Beauty returns home for a visit and begins to try to tell her family about the kind Beast she has come to know.

Pictures of the garden, the castle, the incredible library, and the Beast himself crowded into my mind. "I don't know where to begin."
"Begin in the middle and work outwards," said Hope. "Don't be stuffy."
"All right," I said. So I told them...

Title:Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty & the Beast
Author:Robin McKinley
Date published:1993
Number of pages:247
Notes:This is a repeat reading.


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