Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast

by Robin McKinley


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A young woman, well educated and honourable, accepts responsibility for her father's act and leaves her family to enter the enchanted world of castle and Beast. The Beast she finds is not the one she imagined, but can she stay with him?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060753108
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/26/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.84(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Robin McKinley's other books include the Newbery Award-winning The Hero and the Crown; Newbery Honor Book The Blue Sword; Sunshine; Spindle's End; Rose Daughter; Deerskin; The Outlaws of Sherwood; and the short story collections The Door in the Hedge; A Knot in the Grain and Other Stories; and, with her husband, the author Peter Dickinson, Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits. She lives in England with her husband, three whippets, and over five hundred rosebushes.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I was the youngest of three daughters. Our literal-minded mother named us Grace, Hope, and Honour, but few people except perhaps the minister who had baptized all three of us remembered my given name.

My father still likes to tell the story of how I acquired my odd nickname: I had come to him for further information when I first discovered that our names meant something besides you-come-here. He succeeded in explaining grace and hope, but he had some difficulty trying to make the concept of honour understandable to a five-year-old.

I heard him out, but with an expression of deepeningdisgust; and when he was finished I said: "Huh! I'd rather be Beauty." He laughed; and over the next few weeks told everyone he met this story of his youngest child precocity. I found that my ill-considered opinion became a reality; the name at least was attached to me securely.

All three of us were pretty children, with curly blond hair and blue-grey eyes; and if Grace's hair was the brightest, and Hope's eyes the biggest, well, for the first ten years the difference wasn't too noticeable. Grace, who was seven years older than 1, grew into a beautiful, and profoundly graceful, young girl. Her hair was wavy and fine and luxuriant, and as butter-yellow as it had been when she was a baby (said doting friends of the family), and her eyes were long-lashed and as blue as a clear May, morning after rain (said her doting swains). Hope's hair darkened to a rich chestnut-brown, and her big eyes turned a smoky green. Grace was an inch or two the taller, and her skin was rosy where Hope's was ivory pae; but except for their dramatic colouring my sisters lookedvery much alike. Both were tall and slim, with tiny waists, short straight noses, dimples when they smiled, and small delicate hands and feet.

I was five years younger than Hope, and I don't know what happened to me. As I grew older, my hair turned mousy, neither blond nor brown, and the baby curl fell out until all that was left was a stubborn refusal to cooperate with the curling iron; my eyes turned a muddy hazel. Worse, I didn't grow; I was thin, awkward, and undersized, with big long-fingered hands and huge feet. Worst of all, when I turned thirteen, my skin broke out in spots. There hadn't been a spot in our mother's family for centuries, I was sure. And Grace and Hope went on being innocently and ravishingly lovely, with every eligible young man -- and many more that were neither dying of love for them.

Since I was the baby of the family I was a little spoiled. our mother died less than two years after I was born, and our little sister Mercy died two weeks after her. Although we had a series of highly competent and often affectionate nursemaids and governesses, my sisters felt that they had raised me. By the time it was evident that I was going to let the family down by being plain, I'd been called Beauty for over six years; and while I came to hate the name, I was too proud to ask that it be discarded. I wasn't really very fond of my given name, Honour, either, if it came to that: It sounded sallow and angular to me, as if "honourable" were the best that could be said of me. My sisters were too kind to refer to the increasing inappropriateness of my nickname. It was all the worse that they were as good-hearted as they were beautiful, and their kindness was sincerely meant.

Our father, bless him, didn't seem to notice that there was any egregious, and deplorable, difference between his first two daughters and his youngest. On the contrary, he used to smile at us over the dinner table and say howpleased he was that we were growing into three such dissimilar individuals; that he always felt sorry for families who looked like petals from the same flower. For a while his lack of perception hurt me, and I suspected him of hypocrisy; but in time I came to be grateful for his generous blindness. I could talk to him openly, about my dreams for the future, without fear of his pitying me or doubting my motives.

The only comfort I had in being my sisters' sister was that I was "the clever one." To a certain extent this was damning me with faint praise, in the same category as accepting my given name as an epithet accurately reflecting my limited worth -- it was the best that could be said of me. Our governesses had always remarked on my cleverness in a pitying tone of voice. But at least it was true. My intellectual abilities gave me a release, and an excuse. I shunned company because I preferred books; and the dreams I confided to my father were of becoming a scholar in good earnest, and going to University. It was unheard-of that a woman should do anything of the sort-as several shocked governesses were only too quick to tell me, when I spoke a little too boldly -- but my father nodded and smiled and said, "We'll see." Since I believed my father could do anything -- except of course make me pretty -- Iworked and studied with passionate dedication, lived in hope, and avoided society and mirrors.

Our father was a merchant, one of the wealthiest in the city. He was the son of a shipwright, and had gone to sea as a cabin boy when he was not yet ten years old; but by the time he was forty, he and his ships were known in most of the major ports of the world. When he was forty, too, he married our mother, the Lady Marguerite, who was just seventeen. She came of a fine old family that had nothing but its bloodlines left to live on, and her parents were more than happy to accept my father's suit, with its generous bridal settlements. But it had been a happy marriage, old friends told us girls.

Beauty. Copyright © by Robin McKinley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Beauty 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 292 reviews.
Withinu101 More than 1 year ago
My mother actually recommended this book to me when I was sixteen years old and I loved then and love it now. This is not your typical meet the beautiful protagnist and then she meets ugly beast and in time she learns to love him. This has a different twist to it! Beauty is not at all physically beautiful, her two sisters in which shocking are kind, and loving sisters. Beauty is just "plain jane" and throughout the book she discovers her talents, wit, sense of humor, her own beauty and the love of her life. Great book, for young women who are looking on the inside for something. Wonderful introduction of how to help others as well as discovering yourself!
pinkfairytale More than 1 year ago
This book is simply what the title states : Beauty ! I mean this is Beauty and the Beast no changes made just simply and beautifully retold! If you love Disney's Beauty in the Beast you will love this book. This is a great book for girls of any age who are just looking for a classic fairytale that is longer than 20 pages!
clemmy More than 1 year ago
I have never been a big fan of Disney's interpretation of things, and I found this book very refreshing in that Beauty and the Beast actually have a relationship and a reason to love one another. Beauty is very easily respected because she has reasons for all that she does. She loves to read, and she loves her horse Greatheart. This book is very well-written and enjoyable. It's a love story, but instead of "oh, they fell in love and lived happily ever after," we as readers watch their love develop and grow. Beauty must learn about herself and the Beast's history as she gets used to living in an overly large castle infused with magic who wait at her beck and call (sometimes before) and some who help without Beauty wanting it. At the end, you are convinced that they are truly and perfectly in love.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story developed well and had great visual elements and strong characters. However, the ending seemed cut short and rushed after so much building and story-telling it just suddenly came to an end. It felt as if Mckinley wasn't quite sure how to wrap up all the loose ends and so took the shortcut way and everything just magically happened.
Books-Rule_Cats-Do-Too More than 1 year ago
This was such a lovely book until the ending. I felt that it left a lot to be desired. It wrapped up in about five pages, without much detail. Up until then the characters all showed depth and intrigue. I adored the enchanted castle. It was very magical and I couldn¿t help wishing I were Beauty, for I too was falling in love the Beast. When things finished however, there was not enough detail. It didn¿t make much sense, and I was frustrated with the lack of explanation. There is supposedly a sequel or another part at least, to this story, so perhaps I will read that to have my admiration of McKinley restored. I¿d still recommend the book to anyone who either likes McKinley¿s stories or people who enjoy this sort of genre period. Perhaps you¿ll have better luck with its ending then I did.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read this book every year since I was 13. The retelling is beautiful. Everytime I read it, I fall in love again. Its a sweet, sincere look at finding love based on the heart rather than looks. Wonderful book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've loved this book since I first read it 20 years ago. It's still my favorite version of this classic fairy tale.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Highly descriptive and immersive. Beautiful story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite retelling.
Reach_for_the_Stars More than 1 year ago
This is a book that I think any girl who watched Disney as a child should read. It brings a different spin to the classic tale but one that makes it more real. I bought it on a whim at college and have had to tape up the spin from frequent use.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think every one should read this book, especially if you like fantasy. I loved it I found it to be a captivating story. It is like, yet unlike the Disney version of the fairy tale. I found it enough different that it wasn't repeating it. A good book!
Anonymous 8 months ago
I LOVED the meat of this book where Beauty finally meets the beast and settles into the castle, but for me, compared to length of the beginning introductions to her life, it was too short. I would have loved another fifty pages of her and the beast getting to know one another. He learning her back story and she learning his where she could possibly start putting pieces together without figuring it all out. As for the It was absolutely rushed through. It was as if the author arrived to the point of where beauty returns to the castle and then the publisher called them up and said “three hours til first print”. Extremely rushed and lacking in detail. Not much of it made sense as it was all jumbled in at the end and we are left wondering just exactly how everyone showed up within two seconds and it seemed normal to them? Even with the magic it was a bit of a stretch. There was no time to sit with anything either. No time to process what had just happened. Beauty didn’t even have time to fully realize what had just happened and we are expected to buy into the thought that she’s just okay with her beloved beast having turned into this stranger she’s not used to, finding out she’s beautiful but not really understanding how that happened. She didn’t even realize she’d been changed for crying out loud and doesn’t even remember his own name? COME ON! That’s not even within the realm of possibility. He has books that aren’t even in existence yet but no written record of his family tree...... seriously? And Beauty is left having to name him herself like he’s some pet, and within 30 seconds as she’s going to introduce him to I’m guessing thousands of people we don’t even know where they are coming from. Not at all believable, even in a fantasy, because the author created a world in which that cannot be believed. I am just so disappointed that the ending took a crap. It could have been written so much better and this book would be a treasure to own. There is just so much potential that it’s truly disappointing. I have been left very unsatisfied. It would be well worth the effort of a re-write of this book. I would pay triple for it.
MickyFine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beauty has always hated her nickname. The plain youngest daughter with two older and beautiful sisters instead finds her refuge in riding horses and reading. However, when her father returns from a journey with a strange tale of the Beast in the centre of the forest and the debt he owes the creature, Beauty volunteers to go in her father's stead. What she finds in the enchanted castle is far different than what she expected and the Beast himself is even more so.Beauty and the Beast has always been and remains my favourite fairy tale and McKinley's retelling is absolutely wonderful. Beauty is a bright, sympathetic character and not once, despite her status as an offering to the Beast essentially, does she ever seem like a victim. Similarly, the Beast is wonderfully characterized on the careful border between a terrifying creature but also a sympathetic one. McKinley creates a small but rich cast of supporting characters who gave more depth to Beauty's character. I loved the magical world that McKinley created, particularly in the castle, and appreciated the vagueness of the time period, defined only by the books in the castle's library that Beauty has heard of and those she hasn't. My only quibble is that the ending was wrapped up a bit too quickly. I will definitely be reading more of McKinley's novels in the future.
puckrobin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I could reread this book endlessly. In fact, I have worn out two copies and had to replace it. Yet another retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast tale, this version sees a Beauty who is awkward, tomboyish and lacking in patience with social graces and a Beast whose sardonic humour are softened by an almost wistful awkwardness as the two misfits come to know and care for each other. Wonderfully detailed and with the ability to make the reader feel like one of Beauty's family, this retelling deserves to be considered a classic in its own right.
LauraDragonWench on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my absolute favorite books, by one of my favorite authors. The beauty (no pun intended) of this retelling of the classic fairytale carries me away every time I read it. A book that must be read in one sitting, it's a pick-me-up, a carry-away-the-blues book, a story that never fails to entrance, mesmerize, enthrall, or delight me.
Jinjifore on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can't count how many times I've read this book. Robin McKinley has a gift for taking old stories and reworking them into something that is new and unique, and yet still bringing out pieces of the original that the reader might not have ever noticed before.In this version of the story, "Beauty" is not, in fact, very beautiful. Her given name is Honor, to complement the names of her sisters Grace and Hope, but at a young age she discovered what honor meant and said that she wished to be beauty instead. Unfortunately, she didn't grow into this nickname, but her sisters and father were too kind, she says, to remark on it.The closeness of the family is one of the changes McKinley made to the story, and I find that it adds a great deal to the story to have Beauty struggle not only with her own lonliness and fear in the Beast's castle, but with her painful separation from her family. In this version, her desire to leave the Beast for the fateful seven-day visit is motivated by her love for her sister Grace, and it is her family who persuades her to stay a little longer because of their own love for her. By switching the motivations from jealousy and spite to love, McKinley opens up new and interesting facets to the story.The main reason I love this version so much, though, is Beauty's love of books and reading. She connects with the Beast through his magnificent library, and in fact learns to recognize and accept the magic of the castle through her trust of books. I have heard several rumors that the makers of the Disney version of the story used McKinley's book as a partial source, especially for Belle's love of books and the Beast's library. Although I've never been able to find any source that confirms the rumors, I was certainly thrilled to find one of my favorite parts of my own favorite version of the tale incorporated into the movie.Beauty is a marvelously told book in its own right, even separated from the story on which it's based. McKinley has a way of writing that's simple and yet elegant, and has a remarkable facility for conveying her characters' feelings through the way they describe their own surroundings. I'm a huge fan of all of her works, but this one stands above the rest.
purplepen79 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm re-reading this book for probably the 20th time since the first time I read it when I was ten. McKinley draws the characters with such an exquisite touch--I feel like I'm talking to old friends when I read this book.
jjmcgaffey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lovely as always. I've read this so many times I've about got it memorized - the language is beautiful, so I enjoy encountering it, but I don't find things I missed before any more. I love the way this puts real faces on the fairy tale characters - even the bit about how the older sisters asked for gold and jewels and fine clothes, while Beauty wanted only rose seeds from the city. Ger and Robbie are great, and I love Greatheart. The Beast is beautifully presented - both the indescribable shape of him, and his personality. Whoever wrote the script for Disney's Beauty had almost certainly read this - it's not the same story, by a long shot, but there's a similar flavor in those personalities. And Lydia and Bessie and the dishes bustling about... The ending is (always) a little annoying, making me wonder about things. The change itself is well-handled - well, reasonably handled. Beauty never loves Beast's appearance, only the man inside, so once she gets over her inferiority complex that's not a problem. And I can see the family being brought, though the details are weird - Robbie and Melinda at least have matters sharply changed for them. But the bigger problem is the crowds of others coming from far away - is the Beast once again the 'owner' of all the land thereabouts? It's been 200 years - what about what's grown up (politically, etc.) in the meantime? Or has everything been hanging fire waiting for the spell to end (unlikely)? There are awkward things going on somewhere. Still, a comfort read, and one I will continue to return to.
tjsjohanna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of my all-time favorite books, by one of my favorite authors. It was my first introduction to fairy tale novelizations. I love Beauty's character - bookish, not overly attractive (at least not to begin with), honorable, kind. And I love the Beast - despite his horrible and frightening appearance, he is gentlemanly and kind and thoughtful. I love that he loves Beauty's family and cares for them. Sure, it all ends happily ever after (it's a fairytale, after all), but in this case, at least for Beauty and the Beast, they have grown to know and love each other and that bodes well for a real "happily ever after", even without all the rich trappings.
twilightlost on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fairy tales tend to be simplistic, but Robin McKinley takes the story of Beauty and the Beast and fleshes it out to make it a lovely read. The book starts with Beauty's family losing their fortune and having to move to the country, something the city family had never contemplated before. They quickly adapt to their new life and find happiness in the simplicity. There is one rule - they must never go into the forest that backs onto their property.The father, on a return trip from the city, gets lost in the forest and is guided to a castle where he is well looked after for the night. When he is leaving the next morning, he plucks a rose from the garden to take to Beauty, whose one wish for a gift was some rose seeds to plant around the house. The Beast is furious that this man has abused his hospitality, and he emerges to tell the father that he must return in one month, either alone or with one of his daughters, to pay the price.So sets in motion the story of how Beauty comes to live at the castle, and eventually fall in love with the Beast. A quick read, but one I will come back to again.
apartmentcarpet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is exactly what the cover claims: a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. If I had to shelve it in a bookstore, I would probably put it in YA fantasy. Overall, a fun read. Short and easy and not requiring much active thought.
thelorelei on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What can I say? This is one of my all-time favorite books. I first read this book in fifth grade and I still read it at least once a year now in my early twenties. This should be shoved forcibly into the hands of young girls, although I don't see why boys wouldn't enjoy it, as well. The protagonist is intelligent and sensible, qualities that sometimes lack in popular role models. It's impossible not to care deeply about her characters.I believe this was McKinley's first book; in this and in all other since then she has demonstrated a mastery of the English language, with an amazing talent for establishing mood through descriptive language.
ncgraham on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At first glance, this seems a somewhat innocuous read: a gentle, pleasing young adult novel based on a well-known fairytale. Yet I am not at all ashamed, and actually quite proud, to name Beauty among my favorite books.Some have criticized Robin McKinley¿s earliest literary effort simply for sticking too closely to the original. I, however, find this way of looking at fairytale retellings shallow. It is not the cosmetic changes that matter¿although there are a few major ones, including the presentation of our heroine, Honour ¿Beauty¿ Blackman, as a plain but studious young woman¿but the depth of the characterizations and the quality of the world-building.To my mind, the complex verbal interactions between Beauty and the Beast were what made the story unique in the first place. McKinley takes this aspect of the fairytale and runs with it. Both her Beauty and her Beast are real people, with their own virtues, flaws, and insecurities. And this is a romance novel in the best sense, not because it is swoony and dramatic, but because it charts the progress of a relationship that seems¿despite the fantasy setting¿true to life.Moreover, McKinley shows herself to be a master of atmosphere. Every setting, whether it is the grandeur of the Beast¿s palace or the simple comforts of the Hustons¿ country home, comes alive through her gorgeous prose: When spring came I dug up the garden and planted it, and weeded it, and prayed over it, and fidgeted; and almost three years of lying fallow agreed with it, because it produced radishes the size of onions, potatoes the size of melons, and melons the size of small sheep. The herb border ran wild, and the air smelled wonderful; the breezes often stirred the piney, mossy smell of the forest with the sharp smell of hers, mixed in the warm smell of fresh bread from the kitchen, and then flung the result over the meadow like a handful of new gold coins. I pruned the apple trees¿there were also the remains of an old orchard, and a few of the trees were still productive¿and had high hopes of the next winter full of apple jelly.Every time I finish reading, I find myself craving fried potatoes and onions, and pining for the Beast¿s magical library (trust me, the Disney version¿s got nothing on it!).Highly recommended.
lycomayflower on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A pleasant young adult book what does what it says on the tin. The telling is tale-ish, with a lot of action summarized rather than presented in-scene. The book excels at creating a context for the story and giving Beauty and her family personalities. The descriptions of the enchantments surrounding the Beast are also quite well done. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get a little more exploration of why Beauty fell in love with the Beast (I would say the Beast is the least-well-developed character in the story), and the end felt very abrupt, especially since we are given something like 50 pages of (lovely) home life for Beauty before the specter of the Beast even arrives. But overall, I enjoyed this retelling, despite its flaws, and I think it would interest readers of the age group for which it was written (elevenish, I'd say).
the_hag on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beauty (a marvelous retelling of Beauty and the Beast) is divided into three parts, the first tells of her and her families sumptuous life in the city with her father as the head of household with an 18 room mansion complete with servants. In this part of the novel we are lead to see that they are good, kind and decent people...not the vain, spoiled and irresponsible ones portrayed in the story I was told as a child (I particularly liked this about Beauty). Here we see the traditional bones of the story with a few nice embellishments. The father's fortunes are ruined by the loss of his shipping fleet and his eldest daughter's betrothed is lost at sea with them. The middle daughters love interest saves the day for them and they find themselves set up with him the local blacksmith in the small village of Blue Hill, on the remote edge of a dark wood and their experience adjusting to their new homespun county existence. The second half is retelling of the fathers trip back to the city when his fortunes change some and one of his ships turns up. On his return journey, he of course encounters the Beast and the demand of the father's return in 30 days (or else) is made...with the option, of course, for one of his daughters to return in this stead. This section is a bit tedious for me...the endless going on and on about how horrible it is that Beauty is leaving then (boo, hoo) was just a bit too much for me, but overall doesn't detract too much from the story. The final section is of course her experience with the monstrous beast (who is rather civilized, except for his appearance of course) and how they come to live and enjoy one another's company. The ending felt a bit rushed, but overall, it had the traditional happily ever after feel to it...and not even a villain really, just the triumph of the human spirit and goodness over the evil magic spell and they live predictably happily ever after. You know...I knew this would be good...but was worried that since it was written twenty years ago that it would be dated...and how pleased I am to be proven wrong! This is simply a sumptuous retelling of Beauty & the Beast!! Exquisite in detail and a joy to read! Unlike the version I was read as a child, Beauty's sisters are not vain or shallow and this isn't a family glad to be rid of the this is much richer and more complex and in places heartbreaking! Beauty is not without faults though, the characters are richly drawn, but the dialogue and descriptions are a bit repetitive...over emphasis on the dark and haunted nature of the dark woods and on how plain, smart and hard-working Beauty is...but these are easily forgivable as this was McKinley's first novel and I assume that her work will only get better. I give it a solid A, it sticks to the traditional bones of the story, but give it more heart and soul...filling in the outline with outstanding details that bring the entire family and the back story of how Beauty left them to life complete with many enjoyable quirks.