25th October 1978 (this edition, January 6th 2011
David Fickling Books
When the family business collapses, Beauty and her two sisters are forced to leave the city and begin a new life in the countryside. However, when their father accepts hospitality from the elusive and magical Beast, he is forced to make a terrible promise - to send one daughter to the Beast's castle, with no guarantee that she will be seen again. Beauty accepts the challenge, and there begins an extraordinary story of magic and love that overcomes all boundaries. This is another spellbinding and emotional tale embroidered around a fairytale from Robin McKinley, an award-winning American author.
Beauty is kind of a weird one for me. I don't usually read books that are this old, and I don't read a lot of fairytale retellings, but I love Beauty and the Beast and I always hear great things about Robin Mckinley, so I thought this would be a good place to start. I enjoyed it a lot, but it's not become a favourite. I think I will read some more Robin McKinley books in the future, though.
The story takes a while to actually get into the Beauty and the Beast part of it, for the first part (about the first 100 pages) are all about Beauty's life, and her sister's and father's lives, up until Beauty agrees to go to the Beast. I'd read about this part in reviews and it did put me off reading it for a bit because I was in the mood for a quick read, but I didn't find it as boring as I thought that I would. I think that it was important to get to see Beauty's growth as a person from when she was about 12 (I think) to when she's 18 (when she meets the Beast.) What was the most interesting part for me was that even though Belle was still bookish, when her father's business did collapse and they had to move out to a remote northern town, she adjusted really well to the work. Now that I type it out, it seems pretty boring and insignificant, but I liked that when I was reading it. I also liked that even though (she thought) that her sisters were more beautiful than her, they were still really nice to her and they were a really strong family. Usually when you hear about pretty sisters (or pretty anyone) they're usually portrayed as being mean or petty, but here they were sisters.
I think that I found the parts with the Beast partially more interesting, but that's probably more because that's the part of the fairytale that I'm more familiar with. The Beast in this book was far gentler and more melancholy than the Beast from the Disney film (don't judge me- it's one of my favourites) and I'm not sure if I liked this or not. I mean, I'm not saying that I'd rather the Beast be, well, beastlier, but it was just weird is all. I think that it just sort of went with the tone of the rest of the book - fairly subdued and slow, but sweet. It wasn't fast-paced or exciting and there weren't any twists or turns that I wasn't expecting, but it was gentle and nice. It's a bit like when you ride on the kid's train at the zoo, trundling along looking at animals you've seen a million times before, but you enjoy the ride any way.
While I did like the familiarity to it, I was expecting kind of a bigger twist on the fairy tale, you know? It felt a bit like it wasn't really a retelling as such as it's just a, well, telling. (And I know that that's probably not the right word for it, but what ever. I'm sure you understand.) Most fairytale retellings that I read have made a huge change in the setting or the time (Cinder, Scarlet, Sisters Red, Sweetly, ect), but Beauty was set in a sort of rural fantasy world, though I think it was more British-esque than France like in the original story (I don't really know, though), and it was set in what felt like sort of the same time period, though I think that B&tB is about 18th century and this felt like it was earlier than that. I think I'm getting too much into the specifics of it, but you get the point. It didn't feel like a refreshing new take, though after reading and seeing about all these books that are 'brand new takes' on classic stories, it is refreshing in a way to read one that isn't completely.
I enjoyed Beauty a lot, though there were some aspects that I didn't like so much. It was nice to read a gentler book for once, though, that isn't all about the drama and the action. It's a bit like taking a refreshing country stroll after spending a long time in a busy city. Nice, relaxing, but you feel a bit like you want something faster-paced and action filled when you're done.