Beauty – Robin McKinley

 Beauty by Robin McKinley.
Stars: 4.5 of five (five of five as a YA book)
Goodreads summary: Contrary to her nickname, 16-year-old Beauty is not the prettiest girl in her family. But she is the cleverest, bravest, and most honorable. When her father makes a desperate promise to a Beast who lives in an enchanted castle, Beauty fulfills her father’s pledge. A marvelous retelling of a favorite love story. Based on Goodreads’ Beauty by Robin McKinley – Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists.

Beauty  is a single champagne truffle of a book: Robin McKinley’s debut novel from 1978.

This is not a long or complex book. It’s not dark fantasy. It’s a bon-bon that takes the Beauty and the Beast tale and packages it with a charming family in distress, and a self-conscious, bookish young woman who’d rather read Cicero than wear a ball gown.

As a character and first-person narrator, Beauty is self-deprecating, funny, and plausible. The growing affection between her and the Beast is distilled from the fairy tale. No, the Beast’s character is not grittily fleshed out to disturbing brutality. He’s more of a shaggy George Knightley to Beauty’s Emma.  The focus on marriages, suitable or otherwise, did make me think of Jane Austen’s books.

I’ve heard the criticism that McKinley’s books start slow; her Dragonhaven certainly dragged along like filler in search of a plot.  So, I re-read Beauty which is one of my longtime favorites.

I have to grant you that the first two ‘parts’ of the book deal with Beauty’s adolescence, and new life in the rural village… before at last the third and largest part 3 follows Beauty to the Beast’s castle. In contrast with Dragonhaven, though, this first-person narrative moves quickly and forward through time with only relevant hints of the inevitable fairy-tale trouble.

I do admit, I loved reading and re-reading Heidi when I was a child.  I adored the description of that remote location and her rustic life.  Perhaps the middle section of Beauty resonates with my fondness for that return to the country life.

Returning to the truffle metaphor: Beauty is not so large and meaty that you plan to make a meal of it, but it’s precisely what it sets out to be. A small exquisite treat.


Other reviews of Beauty (added by me, not generated)

Do you have review I should include? Let me know in a comment, and I will add the link here.

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