Thursday, November 19, 2009
Beauty - Sheri S. Tepper
I'm a big fan of fairy-tales re-told. I was drawn to this by the description "A time-travelling Sleeping Beauty!" which just seems totally awesome. In fact, this book was even better than I was expecting. Sleeping Beauty is not the only tale that gets wrapped into this story, she's just the heroine. Tam Lin puts in an appearance, Cinderella, Snow White and the Frog Prince all show up, and it doesn't even feel contrived. Beauty is a wonderful character, there is a science-fictional element to the story (she accidentally winds up very far into a dystopian future) which sets the scene for her quest to save the world. She winds up spending a few years of her late teens living in our modern day world and studying literature at university, which allows her to have a very feminist perspective back in the 14th century, as well as allowing her to recognize all the fairy tales ("I watched Disney after all") and be as shocked as the reader is when she starts recognizing bits of them. The story is written as her journal, and contains lovely little interjections from the fairy who originally cast the sleep curse (who is actually on Beauty's side, sort of, and definitely trying to save the world) who is reading Beauty's journal as she writes it and is often quite miffed at Beauty's misunderstandings. It is a coming-of-age novel, as well as a coming-of-old age novel. It is a love story with no happily ever after, just some deeply happy and satisfying moments. It is about the love (or lack thereof) between a mother and child, but mostly it is about trying to make the world a better place, and failing that, trying to save the bits that can be saved, and living with yourself and the choices you have made. It gets very black and scary at points, but the story has some very beautiful moments. I loved it and plan to read it again.