First things first, did you know what it looks like when one half. of your face has a massive muscle spasm? It looks like you’re shoplifting tennis balls in in your cheek. No bueno. So, I spent a lot of this weekend icing my face, and sleeping because drugs.
When I sleep all the time, I have an even better than average chance of, say, waking up in the middle of the night and reading an entire novel.
Did that Saturday.
I had picked up A Terrible Beauty by Nancy Baker as a recommendation from I think the SmartBitchesTrashyBooks.com website. I figured since I wasn’t sleeping any time soon, I may as well start it.
I finished it about the time my alarm went off to feed The Enemy Of Sleep. First, although the blurb I had read hadn’t explicitly called this a Beauty and the Beast retelling, it very much is. It opens with an older scholar coming back home from the hospital, the book is set somewhere in the mid to late 1800s, somewhere Europe-ish. He has received a letter about how he claimed the scholarship of the student assistant he’d had an affair with, after she’d disappeared and he could find no trace of her. That scholarship made his name. She has written that unless he wants her to expose him, he must come to her.
His three sons decide he is too frail to make the journey, and the youngest living son, an artist, is sent in his stead. It is a long, arduous journey, but he gets there, and meets who he thinks is the daughter of the woman blackmailing his father. With the addition of a twist or two, the book follows the Beauty and Beast plot very closely. But the twists made it more interesting. Not only does the beast, the woman, have to convince the son to fall in love with her, but she has to actively give something up as well.
It’s good. Really good. It isn’t explicit in any real way. There some sexy stuff, but it’s all couched in super flowery language or it fades to black. I enjoyed it a lot. Fairy Tale re-tellings are catnip to me, and Beauty and the Beast retellings most of all. It remains one of my favorite fairy tales, with all of its attendant issues. I own multiple film versions, including the Cocteau silent film.
So, yes, this was guaranteed to appeal to me. BUT the fact that I love retellings of this story in particular so much, means that I can be super judgey when they aren’t done particularly well. I liked the characters, warts and all, and all of them had flaws. There were no Belles in this book. And, say if we consider the Disney version, the analog “Gaston” is actually one of the young man’s lovers who actually loves him, and wants him to be happy. When he goes back home because his father is sick, she tells him that it is obvious he loves someone else now, and he should probably go back to her.
The language is very well chosen. The setting is as wonderfully, nondescriptly “European” as most of the fairy tales we are all familiar with. In a city, near a forest, the Beast lives “North.” A north that is reminiscent of Jonathan Harker’s journey in Dracula.
There are so many allusions to so many stories I love in this book!
So, yes, if you enjoy fairy tale re-tellings of a darker bent, pick up A Terrible Beauty by Nancy Baker.
And because I realized I haven’t said it here in a while. I am an Amazon Affiliate, and because lazy, I will often link to products there. I do also try to link to author websites, when I can.
Ok, it’s time for me to take more muscle relaxants and hope the swelling keeps going down before work.
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