In the past few months, Goodreads started a program for its users where it would send you a daily Kindle deal. These are books that appear on your “to-read” list, which are currently on some kind of sale over on Amazon. Back in late May before I went on vacation, a Kindle deal came up for the book “Beauty”, which I suppose I had put on my list at some point in the past. It was $1.99 (as most of them are), and since I love a good retelling of a fairy tale, and needed some fluffy reading material for my trip, I jumped on it. We had some downtime in London after arriving, and so I grabbed my Kindle, opened this new book and dove right in.
Robin McKinley tells the story as I’ve heard only a few times before – that of a father who leaves on a trip and promises to bring back something for each of his three daughters. The older two ask for jewelry and fine clothes, but the youngest asks for a rose. In the more abbreviated cartoony retellings of this version, the older sisters are usually made out to be horrible. But McKinley spends a lot of time establishing a story for who Beauty is, and where her family comes from, why the three daughters ask for the things they ask for, and why their father must travel so far away. I will say that this background story takes up at least the first third of the book – maybe even the first half – and some people may find themselves saying “JUST GET TO THE PART WHERE SHE MEETS THE BEAST”, but as previously established, I’m a big fan of the setting up house trope in books, and there’s quite a lot of that in this one.
This book, since it’s also written for teens is one where the language is simple enough that I felt like I glided over every page quickly. In that downtime on the first day which lasted for maybe an hour or so, I sailed through at least a quarter of the book. And subsequent reading sessions felt like moving through a toilet paper roll – as I got towards the end of the book, things got more interesting, and the pace began to move faster and faster. I finished the book late at night, disappointed that I had finished because I had so enjoyed being immersed in this fantasy world.
Should you read it? Sure! It’s a fun vacation read, whether you’re at the beach, in the mountains, in the city. It’s not too taxing to think about, and so many of the characters will feel familiar because of the story being retold often, so there’s little chance of too much mental exertion. It’s a quick read, and also one that gives a new twist on a classic tale. Definitely worth the short time it will take to finish.
PS – apparently this is the kind of Kindle book I’m allowed to loan out. If anyone out there wants to read it, let me know!
Details: Beauty by Robin McKinley, originally published 1978 by HarperCollins