Synopsis (from Amazon)
When the family business collapses, Beauty and her two sisters are forced to leave the city and begin a new life in the countryside. However, when their father accepts hospitality from the elusive and magical Beast, he is forced to make a terrible promise – to send one daughter to the Beast’s castle, with no guarantee that she will be seen again. Beauty accepts the challenge, and there begins an extraordinary story of magic and love that overcomes all boundaries. This is another spellbinding and emotional tale embroidered around a fairytale from Robin McKinley, an award-winning American author.
I won’t usually pick young adult fiction for myself, not because I don’t think it will be good as much as because I never really think to look at it. When I do read YA fiction it’s because of recommendations- and that’s how I found Beauty. I’ve seen a number of reviews and it had sat on my wishlist for a long time, if some lovely person from BCF hadn’t sent me a copy I probably still wouldn’t have read it! (I have a horrible habit of not buying from my wishlist). This book in particular interested me because I love the story of Beauty and the Beast, it’s my favourite fairytale and I wanted to see a different way of telling it. I really loved Disney’s Beauty and the Beast as a child (and it is still amongst my favourite Disney films) and that’s where my main impression of the story comes from, I am sure it has its own changes but it was what I was comparing to the whole way through.
Some changes I did really like. I was unsure of the idea of Beauty and her family once being rich but becoming poor. Somehow I imagined that even though Beauty had never really been a fan of some of the luxuries gave her it may have changed the way she viewed her new life in the castle. There were more things I preferred though. I liked how Beauty didn’t start off beautiful, it made me like the Beast more and showed how similar they were in looking below the surface, I had the impression that the Beast saw her as beautiful because he loved her. (highlight for minor spoiler) I wasn’t so sure about her becoming beautiful. On one side I liked the idea that she may have become beautiful because she was in love, but it also gave me the impression that she had to be beautiful for everything to be ‘perfect’ and I didn’t like that. I liked the library and the way that it had books that had not been written yet, and it caused a fair amount of humour. The library in the Disney film is half the reason it’s a favourite of mine, I think it’s just the perfect library, and I was looking forward to seeing how McKinley did it. I did feel it was rushed a little- but I guess that most people wouldn’t want paragraphs describing a room which was actually not that important to the plot. It’s just the bibliophile in me that loves libraries and bookshops.
In terms of writing style I wouldn’t call Beauty a masterpiece but it wasn’t written badly, and I felt I got to know Beauty quite well. The Beast probably could have been written better, I only really cared about him for Beauty’s sake, not because I liked him. It’s an easy and quick read and I would recommend it, just don’t expect any literary genius.