Sunday, June 04, 2006

Beauty - Robin McKinley

Robin McKinley's Beauty was the 1998 Phoenix Award honour book. It's a retelling of the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. McKinley twists many of the original story's features in an interesting manner; for example, "Beauty" is actually the childhood nickname of the book-loving protagonist, who is rather plain and whose real name is Honour. And when Beauty's sisters, Hope and Grace, ask their father to bring back jewels from his trip to the city, they're only joking as they are actually both nice young women. The reader is given the story of the family's life before Beauty's father encounters the Beast, and there is enough description of the time Beauty spends with the Beast for readers to understand why/how she could have fallen in love with him. The enchanted invisible ladies-in-waiting, with their matter-of-fact meant-to-be-private-but-actually-audible-to-Beauty conversations, keep trying to force Beauty to wear far more glamorous clothes than she is used to or interested in wearing. And which book-lover would not long to visit the Beast's library, which contains all the books in the world, including the ones that haven't yet been written ! (I was strongly reminded by this of Terry Pratchett's utterly fantastic and fantastical concept of L-Space.)

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