August 22, 2009

Beauty by Robin McKinley

This much-loved retelling of the classic French tale Beauty and the Beast elicits the familiar magical charm, but is more believable and complex than the traditional story. In this version, Beauty is not as beautiful as her older sisters, who are both lovely and kind. Here, in fact, Beauty has no confidence in her appearance but takes pride in her own intelligence, her love of learning and books, and her talent in riding. She is the most competent of the three sisters, which proves essential when they are forced to retire to the country because of their father's financial ruin.
The plot follows that of the renowned legend: Beauty selflessly agrees to inhabit the Beast's castle to spare her father's life. Beauty's gradual acceptance of the Beast and the couple's deepening trust and affection are amplified in novel form. Robin McKinley's writing has the flavor of another century, and Beauty heightens the authenticity as a reliable and competent narrator.
I like that McKinley creates a realistic setting, although with magical elements, and real life problems for Beauty and her family to struggle through. The family has lived a charmed life until a string of bad luck reduces them to living on a very small farm, having to learn chores and to do for themselves. Beauty avoids the mirror and revels in being the tomboy she always has been at heart, thinking herself plain and mousy. She has courage to make a sacrifice for her family and in doing so discovers more about herself and what she desires out of life. She overcomes her timidity with the Beast and eventually realizes, like how she views herself, that one's heart and character on the inside is more important than what one looks like on the outside. There are many themes that young adults can relate to: courage, honor, working hard, sacrifice, true beauty, being humble and thankful, etc.
What I found odd about the Beauty storyline was that it was not linear. McKinley would reference present events and then skip back to past events to explain and expound and then skip back to the present events. Seemed hodge podge when past events could have been all explained in a prologue. That said ... McKinley created interesting characters each with their own quirks.
I guess I was expecting more content and fluidity to the writing and the numerous spelling mistakes were distracting. It was a bit difficult reading the first half of the book getting used to the abrupt sentence structure. Although if I think the writing style would suit pre-teen and teen readers well. Solidly young adult fiction although I would recommend anyone can read the story and enjoy it.
My Rating: 3.5 Chapters Amazon

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