I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I really enjoyed this book, and I hadn’t expected to. Beauty and the Beast is one of my all-time favourite Disney movies (not exactly rare, I know but still Mulan and now Anastasia, since Disney bought Fox, are my ultimate favourites) and I have never read any of its retellings and thought this one was artfully done.
The setting and description are beautiful and I really liked how the prose was written like it really was the Beast’s inner monologue and not just the parts required from the movement of the story. We got self-reflection and memories and it was brilliant. And yet, it was all still important and it still felt as though we uncovered something relevant with each revelation. I would usually prefer dual or multiple perspectives but I think the single perspective works best for this as we really are getting the Beast’s entire and unabridged version of events.
This book also feels like its actually set in France which, with the exception of the odd ‘bonjour’ or mention of French food, most adaptions don’t feel that way. It felt authentic. The magic aspect I quite enjoyed also, as well as Isabeau’s family’s story arc – though I’m not sure how much of this derives from the original story having never read it.
This retelling also slightly redeems the previous issues this story has arising from terms like Stockholm Syndrome and what really qualifies as valid consent (ish, I’ll get more to that though I don’t dispute the validity in this case). I’m not certain how old Isabeau is meant to be in the story but she feels like a fully-fledged adult.
I had to knock a star off for a few minor points I wasn’t so hot on, but none of them were major issues.
Firstly, Isabeau. I think she benefits greatly from the preconceived idea of ‘Belle’ (AKA Beauty) being independent, intelligent, brave and well-read as she doesn’t exhibit a great many of these features and the ones she does, it’s not a lot and whilst I grant the main focus of the book is the Beast himself it would have been nice to see more layers of her personality.
Secondly, the proposals. It got a bit much over time and is what I’m referring to when I say about consent. It’s really more of an issue of how many times should a question be asked before the person being asked is simply worn into submission.
There are a lot of proposals in this book, too many to count and whilst the Beast understands why this is an issue:
“And my occasional proposals began to distress her once again.”
“Indeed, the only thing preventing us from being perfectly comfortable together was my obstinate insistence on proposing to her every few days.”
And, laments over it at length and grieves the upset it causes her, he doesn’t stop. Again, this could be taken from the original tale, and when they do eventually agree to marry it’s not to one of his incessant proposals and it’s doesn’t come across as pushy or forceful in the book … it’s still annoying to read, even if I get why he has to do it.
Overall, I think those who loved the live-action remake will love this as well and those who love the original tale and the Disney film (though you won’t find Cogsworth or Lumiere) will love this book too and I did really enjoy it overall.