Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty & the Beast by Robin McKinley
Once Upon a Time II, Young Adult Challenge
I've seen the Disney movie, I've seen the stage musical, and now I've read the story: Beauty and the Beast. Is the song in your head now? McKinley wrote this version in 1978, and has even redone this story herself again, in Rose Daughter. I thought I might read that as well, but I think I would wait a while. There can't be that many ways to tell this story.
This version is similar to the Disney movie, but the back story changes quite a bit, as Beauty is the youngest of three daughters, and she is not a beauty either, more of a tomboy and scholar. Her family loses their fortune and moves to the country. Her father gets lost in the enchanted woods behind their home when he comes home with a fantastic tale of a terrible promise made to the Beast who saved his life, Beauty volunteers to go live with the Beast. Knowing the story, the real enjoyment was just in seeing how McKinley gets the reader to the inevitable end.
There were some nice touches. I liked the enchanted library with all books written, even ones yet to be written, and the Beast even read one of my favorite poems, Browning's "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister." There was no Gaston coming to 'save' Beauty; I liked that Beauty comes to her own understanding about love and wasn't treated as property by men. The roses still played a big part, and the country respect of magic, to explain things that can't be easily understood was plausible. It was a good read, not great, but a nice little fairy tale nonetheless.