Beauty

Beauty

by Sheri S. Tepper

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307571939
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/23/2009
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 197,422
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Sheri S. Tepper (1929–2016) is the award-winning author of A Plague of Angels, Sideshow, Beauty, Raising the Stones, Grass, The Gate to Women's Country, After Long Silence, and Shadow's End. Grass was a New York Times Notable Book and Hugo Award nominee, and Beauty was voted Best Fantasy Novel by the readers of Locus magazine.

Read an Excerpt

1
 
 My Life in Westfaire
 
ST. RICHARD OF CHICHESTER’S DAY, APRIL, YEAR OF OUR LORD 1347
 
I never knew my mother. My father never speaks of her, though my aunts, his half sisters, make up for his silence with a loquacity which is as continuous as it is malicious. The aunts speak no good of her, whoever she was and whatever has happened to her, specifics which they avoid, however much ill they find to mutter about else. I have always thought they would not waste so much breath on her if she were dead, therefore she is probably alive, somewhere. De mortuis nil nisi bonum, Father Raymond says, but that only applies to dead people.
 
When I was very young I used to ask about her. (As I think any child would. It wasn’t wickedness.) First I was hushed, and when I persisted, I was punished. Nothing makes me angrier or more intent upon finding out things than having people refuse to tell me. I don’t mind when people don’t know, not really, but I hate it when they just won’t tell. It’s not practical, because it just makes others more curious. It was the aunts whispering about things that started me upon the habit of listening behind doors and dallying outside open windows. Father Raymond reproaches me for this when I confess it, though he admits it is not a very great sin. It was my own idea to confess it because it felt slightly wicked, but perhaps curiosity is not really a sin at all and I need not feel guilty about it. I will try not confessing it for a while, and see.
 
Sometimes I hear my mother’s name, Elladine, and references to “the Curse,” or “the Curse on the Child.” The Child is presumably me. If I had known what a curse was during my more tender years, I might have been irremediably warped or wounded. As it was, I knew no more what a curse was than what a mama was, except that most children had not the one, but had the other, and that I had had both without getting any discernable good out of either. Now that I am older and know what a curse is, though not the particulars as they may relate to myself, I am used to the idea and I do not find being cursed as frightening as I probably should.
 
(I know I am being loquacious. Father Raymond says I am very loquacious and affected. I don’t really think I am affected, unless it is by the aunts, and if it is by the aunts, how could I help it? All these words are something I was born with. Words bubble up in me like water. It is hard to shut them off.)
 
I have resolved to find out all about Mama (and the curse) as soon as I can. So far I have not found out much. I do know that Mama was very beautiful, for one of the older men-at-arms said so when he told me I look much like her around the eyes though the rest of me seems to be purely Papa. Papa is an extremely handsome man, and therefore I am very beautiful. It is not conceit which makes me say so. It is a fact. One must face facts, or so the aunts are fond of saying, though they don’t do it at all. They say many things they don’t do. I’ve noticed that about people. The fact is that I shall be ravishing when I grow up if I continue in good habits and do not take to drink.
 
Aunt Lovage, I regret to say, is a tippler, though the other aunts are quite abstemious.
 
Father Raymond took over teaching me when I was ten or eleven years old, but my earliest memories are of an education supervised by the aunts. I learned cookery from Aunt Basil and wines from Aunt Lovage, sewing from Aunt Marjoram (who was herself educated by the Sisters of the Immediate Conception at St. Mary of Perpetual Surprise) and music from Aunt Lavender who, though tone deaf, plays upon the lute with great brio and a blithesome disregard for accuracy. She refers to her style as “spontaneous,” and urges me to emulate it.
 
I have found I can play the right notes quite as easily as the wrong ones, though to satisfy Aunt I do flap my arms rather more than the music requires. I am quite talented in music. I am told I sing nicely.
 
When I was four or five, Aunt Tarragon taught me my letters in order that I could read improving works and be confirmed in the faith. Some of the writings I like best do not feel very improving, though whenever Aunt Terror is around I pretend I am reading religious books. I was confirmed when I was nine, rather late in life, truly, though Father Raymond considered it soon enough. Even then I thought some bits and pieces of doctrine were unlikely at best. Aunt Tarragon is very pious. The other aunts call her the Holy Terror—a play upon her name. They say things like, “Where’s the Holy Terror gone?” and collapse in silly laughter.
 
It was my grandfather’s notion to name his seven daughters after herbs, a black mark in the heavenly score book which was no doubt wiped clean by his death or enslavement at the age of seventy-four while on his way to Rhodes to offer his services to the Knights Hospitaler of St. John. We are a long lived family, so Papa says, and Grandfather was still very hale and fervent at that age. Grandfather’s ship was blown off course in a storm and was taken subsequently by Mamluks, so Grandmama was informed by an escaped survivor. From what Papa and the aunts say about him, I doubt Sultan al-Maluk an-Nazir had any pleasure of Grandfather.
 
Luckily, Grandfather’s demise or disappearance came long after he brought home the builders who saw to the reconstruction of Westfaire Castle. Some say the architects were pagans from the Far East, and some say they were inheritors of the Magi, but they could not have been anything evil to have built so beautiful a place. There is no other castle like it in England; there may be no building like it in the world. Westfaire is without peer. Even those who have traveled to the far corners of the earth, as Father Raymond did in his younger years, say it is of matchless beauty.
 
Grandfather’s first wife had no sons and two daughters. They are eldest of my aunts, Aunt Sister Mary Elizabeth and Aunt Sister Mary George, who are nuns at the Monastery of St. Perpituus in Alderbury. The sisters do not visit us often. I believe they took holy orders simply to escape being called Tansy and Comfrey, though it is possible they were summoned by God. Sister Mary Elizabeth was rather infirm when I last saw her, though it is likely Sister Mary George will go on forever, getting a little leaner and drier with every passing year.
 
Grandfather’s second wife had no sons and five daughters. Aunt Lavvy, at fifty-eight, is the youngest of them. Aunt Love is sixty. Aunt Terror is sixty-two. Aunts Bas and Marj are twins of sixty-five. I am almost sixteen, and the difference in our ages (as well as their reticence about things I want to know) seems an impenetrable barrier between us. They often fail to perceive the things I perceive, and this makes communication between us exceedingly difficult. I cannot say that there is more than a superficial affection on either side of our relationship. Father Raymond talks about filial duty, but it seems to me there should be something more in a family than that.
 
Grandfather’s third wife, my father’s mother, died soon after Grandfather vanished, of grief it is said, though in my opinion she died of simple exasperation. I sometimes imagine what it would be like to be wife to a man and mother to a son who are always off on pilgrimage, as well as being stepmother to seven daughters, all of them considerably older than I. I would die of it, I think, just as Grandmama did. She was only fifteen when she married Grandfather, after all, and about thirty-five when he was killed. What had she to look forward to but decades more of the herbal sisters, all of them dedicated to eccentric celibacy? Buried among all those stepdaughters, Grandmama would have been unlikely to find a second husband, especially since there was nothing left of either her dowry or her dower. Grandpapa used everything rebuilding Westfaire: all the dowries of his three wives, all his own money, and all the considerable fortune he had somehow obtained in the Holy Land, about which people say very little, making me believe Grandfather may not have been quite ethical in amassing the treasure. Grandmama was left with nothing to attract suitors, and death might have seemed a blessed release. At least, so I think.
 
I spend a lot of time thinking about people. If one leaves out religion, there is very little to think about except people. People and books are just about all there is. I don’t have anyone much to talk with and only Grumpkin to play with, so … so I spend a lot of time thinking. It comes out in words. I can’t help that.
 
I do read everything I can get hold of. Books and my own writings are a comfort to me in the late hours of the night when all in Westfaire are asleep but me, and I am awake for no reason that I know of except that my legs hurt (Aunt Terror says it is growing pains) or the owls are making a noise in the trees, or my head is full of things I have do not have enough words for yet—there must be such things!—or my chest burns as it sometimes does, as though I had swallowed a little star. It burns and burns, just behind my collar bone, as though it were trying to hollow me out to make a place for itself. I do not know what it is, but it has always been there.
 
So, I sit up in my bed with the bed curtains drawn tight, the candle on one side and Grumpkin snoring into his paws on the other, and make lists of new words I have heard that day or write pages to myself about all the things I do not understand. Grumpkin lies on his back with his tummy up, his front feet folded over his chest or nose and an anticipatory smile on his face, as though he is dreaming of mice. I wish I could sleep like cats do.
 

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Beauty 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are checking out these reviews because you have read Tepper before then you should definitely buy this book. Her writing style is entertaining and the ideas she brings up incorporating fairy tales and modern concerns about humanity are intriguing. This was the first book I read by her but I also greatly enjoyed a Plague of Angels. The way she interweaves social, political, and philosophical concepts into an entertaining novel is amazing, and always leaves you thoughtful. Trust me and read this book. And while I think it is one everyone should own, at least check it out at the library.
EmScape on LibraryThing 5 months ago
From the fourteenth century to the twenty-first; from medieval England to the imaginary land of Chinanga; from the Faery land of Ylles and even into hell itself, Beauty's journey spans myriad settings and covers some very important issues. Beauty is ostensibly the Sleeping Beauty of legend, but the legend is re-imagined in a delightful and thought-provoking manner. I cannot summarize the plot further without giving away so many delightful surprises; in fact, I think the first sentence of this review is almost too much of a spoiler.The writing is simply delightful, strewn with little in-jokes for those familiar with history and legend. One of my favorites is the description of a nunnery named The Sisters of Immaculate Intentions. Several times while reading, I was so tickled I had to stop and read sections aloud to my husband. Beauty herself is really the only well-developed character, but so many other enchanting (pun very much intended) characters sidle through the story that you don't really notice that none of them are terribly dynamic or fleshed out. Although some parts are sort of lagging in between the eras of Beauty's life, I very much enjoyed every moment I spent reading this book. I strongly encourage every fan of science fiction, fantasy or social justice to read this.
jlizzy on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Creative and wonderful fairytale for adults
sturlington on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Beauty is a sprawling novel that traverses time and space, incorporating childhood fairy tales, the apocalypse and a significant environmental message. The main character is Beauty, a young girl living in the 14th century, who discovers that her mother is a fairy and that a curse has been placed on her so that she will fall asleep for 100 years on her 16th birthday (sound familiar?). Beauty, an independent, headstrong woman well ahead of her time, is having none of that and so escapes the fairy curse using an enchanted cloak.What Beauty doesn¿t know is that she is carrying something extremely valuable inside her chest, something that her fairy godmother and the angels desperately want to protect. Beauty doesn¿t go along with their plans to spirit her away to an imaginary land, instead stumbling on a group of time travelers from the ¿21st,¿ as they call it. They take her to a time when magic no longer exists, where she learns the ultimate fate of humanity. And that¿s just the start of her adventures.A summary of all of the novel¿s events would probably require several thousand more words. Suffice it to say that Tepper deftly weaves elements from fantasy, science fiction, mythology, Christianity and fairy tales to create an enthralling, if fanciful, tale.
the1butterfly on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This was my first Sheri S. Tepper book, which I picked up because I found out it was a retelling of "Sleeping Beauty." I liked it so much that I read all her other books, even though none of the others are fairy tale retellings. This book goes back and forth in time and even into an imaginary world and faeryland, and the main character faces a minor gigantic task- save the world from environmental destruction by protecting yourself while being dragged through time and space and even into hell. It's a stunning protest against the humans-first view so many people have, and a stern warning against overpopulation.
lenoreva on LibraryThing 8 months ago
As I was browsing in a used bookstore one day, I was attracted to this book by the cover and the simple title. Over the past 10 years, I have gone back to this book again and again. I fall in love every time! The romance between Beauty and Giles is one of the most beautiful I have read anywhere. I am fascinated by time travel, fairy tales, and the struggle to discover identity, and Tepper skillfully weaves all these and more into a simply wonderful story. My only caveat: some of Tepper's ideas are very liberal, but don't let that stop you from discovering this priceless book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great ending and tie ins, so painful to read thru to get there. I really wanted to love this but almost stopped reading it I was so irritated by the wandering middle section. It all ties back at the end, but I skipped thru a bunch to get to the end. Ending really saved this. I can see why it's a loved book, just not by me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love this book! A coworker recommended back in 2006 and I have been reading it over and over ever since!
Linda R Mendietta More than 1 year ago
I love this story. Its one of the best storiea that ive read.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I never want to live in THAT future. I never want to be a part of any of it, but its probably too late. Beauty is the most amazing book I¿ve ever read. The images and ideas will remain with me always. If life is to be anything like Tepper shows it then all of humanity should read this book in preparation and try to prevent it from happening!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I didn't pick up this book until my sister told me about it. This book is quite fasinating in relating all of the fairy tales together. From Snow White to Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and even the Frog Prince. If you've seen NBC's The 10th Kingdom then this book is much like it. It's about a girl named Beauty who is connected in some way to all of the fairy tales throughout her life. The book isn't just about links to fairy tales only but it also shows a life of a person wasted and the effects of it deeply. I thought the book was great yet some parts like the dream world was so dragging (good concept but draggy)and the whole thing about the time travelling did explain that Cinderella's glass slippers were actually plastic cuz Beauty watched Disney, but it wasn't logical and didn't make sense. If we allow time travelers to make documentaries wouldn't it be risky like what happen to Beauty and messing up the past? I just didn't by that. Also, I thought that 1 line in the book was corny when Beauty told her time traveling shoes to take her to her mama, mama? The way it was written was just to corny. Other then the stuff I've mention, I enjoyed the book cuz it also talks about how we don't have magic anymore and stories about the fairy tales you would never think it would be cuz it was realitistic.