Sixteen-year old Beauty's nickname is far from accurate; she is tall and gangly, awkward and freckle-faced—nowhere near as beautiful as her sisters, Grace and Hope. But this doesn't bother her as much as it might; she prefers a hot fire, a large mug of tea, and a good book (preferably something in Latin or Greek) to high society. With her eldest sister Grace pledged to be married to the captain of her father's merchant fleet, and her other sister Hope secretly smitten with a young blacksmith it appears that Beauty will soon be living out her days as a studious old maid in her father's house in the city.
But then disaster strikes when the entire merchant fleet is lost, wrecked, or stolen at sea. Beauty's father finds himself ruined, with no one to turn to, until Hope's young blacksmith arrives to save the day. He has bought a house for her far out in the country, and he invites her family to come along and live with them. And so Beauty finds herself having to adjust to poverty and hard work.
But her family sticks together through all the hardships that follow, until disaster strikes again when Beauty's father goes to check on a ship that has returned to harbor—and ends up dining at the castle of a mysterious beast who sends him back home with a sinister request. Beauty knows that it falls on her to take up the burden of returning to the beast's castle to fulfill the request—to become a prisoner of her own free will.
What makes this retelling by Robin McKinley stand out is her portrayal of Beauty's family. In the classic stories Beauty is isolated, hated by her spiteful sisters, or shunned because of her goodness and beauty. But in this version she is neither the most beautiful nor the sweetest and kindest person in her family. Robin McKinley chooses to set Beauty in a lovingly supportive family. She trades her traditional beauty for bookishness and common sense, tempered by her sisters' love and kindness.
In a way this makes Beauty's sacrifice that much more meaningful; we feel for her and her family when she must make the hard choice to leave them. And it also makes her redeeming love for the beast spring from a deeper place. Beauty herself was not beautiful, and yet was loved. It's because of this that she's able to see past the beast's ugliness and love him too.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here
Did you find this review helpful?