Beauty and the Beast Wrap Up
This month, we’ve looked at five different adaptations of Beauty and the Beast:
Belle by Cameron Dokey
Beast by Donna Jo Napoli
Beauty by Robin McKinley
Spirited by Nancy Holder
Beastly by Alex Flinn
Of those five novels, most hit most of the checkpoints pretty solidly – Beauty and the Beast, it seems, is hard to do poorly. Now, because the novels we looked at this month approach the story in such drastically different ways, this wrap up will be less of a comparison and ranking between the five and more a look at the similarities they share and what their individual strengths were.
It’s interesting to me that of the five novels, almost all of them (Spirited being the exception) are told in first person rather than third. This is an interesting choice because first person is the most limited perspective in a lot of ways. An author is confined to one person’s head and one person’s viewpoint. But that decision makes sense for this fairy tale. At its heart, Beauty and the Beast is really a pretty simple story, especially when we look at the number of characters. For the bulk of it, there’s only the two: Beauty, and the Beast. So it makes sense to put this story in first person – either through Beauty’s eyes to learn how she could come to love such a monster, or the beast’s to show his journey to self-awareness. And I think the fact that the one novel in third person is also the novel that brings in the most outside characters, speaks to this.
It’s also interesting to note that of the five, two chose to focus on Beauty, two chose to focus on the Beast, and the remaining novel focused on both about equally. I think that goes to show how multi-faceted a story this is – authors want to get inside everyone’s heads! As I said, this is a story with a lot of potential for improvement, and it was wonderful to read five novels this month that I enjoyed, as opposed to last month. Each of these books had a lot to offer the story, and they were all strong in different ways.
I love Belle’s relationship between Bella and the Beast, and the overall message that nothing is as it first appears and anything can change given time and the right circumstances. I love Beast’s willingness to divert from a lot of the iconic imagery of the original story, making Belle’s arrival and breaking of the curse almost an afterthought. I love Beauty’s timeless feel, the way it reads like an original fairy tale expanded. I adore the message of Spirited and the way the story was translated to real life history. And I love the modernization of Beastly, translating the story into our current society.
So where does each novel rank specifically?
Tied for first at Strongly Recommended are Spirited and Beastly. I just love the way that both of these novels took the original story and made it directly relevant to readers. I love the recontextualization, and I feel these two are the strongest of the bunch.
Belle, Beast, and Beauty follow pretty close behind, and are all recommended, but they each have some weak spots that keep them from being on par with the other two. I still really enjoyed them, though, and I do recommend reading them.
Other notable novels:
The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey remains one of my favorite adaptations of this fairy tale. You may ask why I didn’t, then, add it to the list this month, and I’ll admit, once I had the one-word title thing doing, I was kinda hesitant to break it. Also, only so many weeks. But this is a great book if you like historical fiction with a fantasy twist (terribly specific genre, that).
Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley is an interesting read as well, mainly because, yes, that’s the same author who wrote Beauty. Twenty years later, she decided to give it another go, not because she wasn’t happy with the first one, but because she thought she could do it a little bit better and make the story a bit more complex. Die hard romantics will likely hate the ending, but personally, I love it, and I applaud McKinley’s guts.
And that’s all for Beauty and the Beast. Join me in July for a look at Rumpelstiltskin!