Monday, December 20, 2010

Beauty by Robin McKinley

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the BeastTitle:  Beauty:  A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
Author:  Robin McKinley
Publisher:  HarperCollins
Publication Date:  original - 1978, pictured edition - 2005
Format:  Hardcover, 247 pages (cover pictured is the paperback version)
Age Group:  10+ (according to the inside cover of the version I read)

I think the only version of Beauty and the Beast that I have been exposed to is the Disney movie version.  At least, that is the only version I remember at this point which may be because my two year old has been watching it over and over and over lately.  Apparently she has moved on from Mary Poppins...

Anyway, since the Disney version seems to be the only thing I have to compare Robin McKinley's version to, it is an interesting comparison.  The first major difference for me is that Beauty has more family in the book than just her father.  Perhaps she always had sisters in the traditional fairy tale version but this was new to me.  I found the loss of fortune and the move to the country a great way to get some insight into Beauty's true character before she meets the Beast.  Beauty's acceptance of her plain appearance and her willingness to do hard work are quite the contrast to Belle who feels above the rest of the villagers in her small town.

The character of the Beast has a very different personality in this book compared to the movie as well.  In the movie, the Beast has a terrible temper and this starts the relationship off on the wrong path.  The Beast in the book is kind and gentle from the beginning and it is simply Beauty's fear of him that prevents her from entertaining the idea that the relationship could develop into something more.  Even as Beauty grows beyond her fear and develops a great friendship with the Beast, she is the one who cannot move beyond his physical appearance.

I greatly enjoyed this version which has more emphasis on family and takes the reader much deeper into the characters and their relationships than the Disney version.  The division of the novel into three parts works very well, although the first two parts put together might equal the length of the last section.  The very end felt a little rushed toward the 'happily ever after' but I think the majority of fairy tales are like that.  Break the magic spell and boom everything is grand and happy.  Sometimes I wonder what happens after that part!

Beauty is Robin McKinley's first novel and was originally published in 1978.  I think the timelessness of the story and the writing contribute to it having been reissued in several versions.  McKinley captures all the details in a simple manner that is charming and easy to read.

I borrowed this book from my local library and read it to participate in the Reading with Tequila Book Club discussion for December on Goodreads.

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