Beauty has always been embarrassed by her nickname – she is plain and awkward compared to her two elder sisters, Hope and Grace. But what she lacks in beauty she can perhaps make up for in courage.
When their merchant father returns from a failed business trip to the city where they once lived, he tells his daughters a strange tale: how on his way home he lost himself in a winter storm, and stumbled out of it into the summer garden of a magical castle. Innocently he picks a rose, and a fearsome Beast roars at him that his life is forfeit… unless one of his daughters will take his place.
He will not hear of it when Beauty declares that she will return to the castle in his stead, but she is determined to go. ‘He cannot be so bad if he loves roses so much’, she says. ‘Cannot a Beast be tamed?’
I got this book in a reprint while I was at uni and remember loving it but hadn’t touched it since. I think it shows it’s age a little, but it’s still lovely. I will always love a retelling, especially or fairytales and even more especially of beauty and the beast. My only real complaints were that it felt a bit too faithful to the tale (though given when it was written I will forgive that a little as it was less common to be radically different) and that the ending feel rushed. It’s suddenly all over when I wanted five or ten more chapters! I felt a bit robbed by that. But the characters are all lovely, and well written. I especially like Beauty’s honesty about her flaws (real or otherwise). However if written now, I do also think focusing on her perceived beauty as a measure of worth isn’t it enough – I wanted her to feel there was more than that available to her. You get it in pieces – wanting to go to uni, and fitting in round the town, but it all comes back to looks which is why I don’t like that she “grows up pretty” after being plain until 16-18 (it is not clear if any of the change happened before the castle). Hmm. Beautifully written and still a lovely story worth reading but as an adult I see a few more flaws in the story.