December 5, 2009


Title : Beauty
Author : Sherri S. Tepper
Reading Dates : 4 Dec - 12 Dec 2009

Book Summary of Beauty.
Beauty, the only daughter of Duke Phillip of Monfort and Westfaire and the Lady Elladine of Ylles is the heroine from which the legend of Sleeping Beauty revolves. Since Beauty's mother disappeared while she was still an infant and her father has largely ignored her, Beauty only learns that her mother is a fairy and she herself cursed to sleep for a hundred years on her 16th birthday shortly after her father becomes engaged to Sibylla de Vinciennes d'Argent..

Sibylla had taken an instant disliking to Beauty and was determined to make life difficult for her including taking over Beauty's rooms. When Beauty moves in to what was her mother's rooms, she discovers the letter her mother left for her and a box containing magical threads to help Beauty find Elladine. Beauty sews an invisibility cloak using the black thread and escapes the curse placed on her. Instead her illegitimate half-sister Mary Blossom born on the same day as her is the one who falls under the spell of the enchantment with the rest of the Westfaire inhabitants.

Although Beauty escapes from Westfaire, she is kidnapped by
time travelers from the 21st century documenting the end of magic and brought to their time. Even when Beauty sews a pair of 7 league boots using the brown thread, she is unable to escape as magic no longer exists in that time. One of her abductees Bill takes pity on Beauty and convinces several others of their group to escape their dying world by travelling 100 years into the past together with Beauty.

Beauty and Bill's peaceful life in the early 1990s is disrupted when another of their group, Jaybee, kills Bill and rapes Beauty. To escape from further degradation by Jaybee, Beauty escapes back to her own time with the 7 league boots.

When Beauty discovers she is pregnant with Jaybee's child, she seduces Edward of Wellingford into marrying her. She names the daughter she bears after her mother Elladine. Like her mother, Beauty abandones own child shortly after birthing her when she sees Jaybee in Elly. Beauty seeks out her mother and finds her in the imaginary land of Chinanga. She also meets the clock fairy, her Aunt Carabosse, who had originally cursed her and learns all is not as it seems. Aunt Carabosse seems to actually be her ally and the curse was intended as a form of protection from those who would harm her.

Beauty travels with her mother to Ylles, a province in Faery, only to flee later in order to escape being used as payment to the Dark Lord. Though Beauty has only spent a few years in Faery, she finds that in the real world more than a decade has past and she herself is old. She seeks out her daughter Elly pretending to her aunt Catherine. To her surprise, Beauty finds herself playing the role of fairy godmother to her daughter, nicknamed Ella of the ashes by her stepsiblings, from which the fairy tale Cinderella would be borne. Beauty is also reunited with her lost love Giles shortly before he disappears, apparently set upon and killed by robbers.

Beauty stays with Ella who dies giving birth to Beauty's granddaughter Galantha. She then decides to return the 1990s in order to seek revenge upon Jaybee whom she blames for Giles and Ella's death. Beauty succeeds in her plans and stays on in that time hoping to work towards changing the future she saw in the 21st century. She stays too long in the 20th century and almost fails to return to her own time later as the amount of magic declines the further from her own time.

When Beauty does return to her own time, she finds 50 years have past since she left. She is reunited with Giles, who had been overpowered by an impress gang. Together they attempt to seek out Beauty's granddaughter or descendants. Again Beauty finds her kin the subject of another fairy tale with Galantha or SnowDrop as she is called, the heroine of what would be known as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in a future time.
After Snow's prince finds and weds her, Beauty returns to Wellingford with Giles.

When Giles falls severely ill, Beauty brings him back to Westfaire. Thus, instead of dying, Giles falls under the sleeping enchantment of Westfaire.

Snow's father-in-law, King Zot, soon sends Snow's newborn baby boy to Beauty. The child is the product of an extra-marital affair between Snow and a courtier, Vincent. Beauty names her great-grandson Giles Edward Vincent Charming and is at first more than happy to raise the child. She soon realizes that baby Giles's foster mother resents her and decides to visit her mother in order to avoid disharmony in Wellingford.

Forgetting the danger she was once in, Beauty finds herself handed over to the Dark Lord. When Beauty finally escapes her imprisonment, she finds years have past and she is now a hundred and three. For breaking the covenant with the Holy One by bringing harm to a human, all of Faery are no longer immortal, even Beauty's friends and allies.

Beauty's Faery allies though sees hope of saving the world where once there was none. And thus, though all of Faery believes that they will perish, a great host gathers to fight the Dark Lord. While the Faery fail to destroy the Dark Lord, they do succeed in banishing him into another dimension. Although most of Faery have perished, those who still have the strength have chosen to pursue him. Only the Bogles remain to guard the earth and prevent the Dark Lord's horrors from returning.

Meanwhile, Beauty who has returned to Westfaire finds her great-grandson in the form of a frog after being enchanted into that form by Carabosse. Beauty grows fond of her great-grandson who reminds her of herself in her youth. She helps him to recover his human form and gets him to help her save the world. Treating Westfaire as an Ark, Beauty's great-grandson Giles and the Bogles help to collect mankind's creations and every species of life in order to preserve it. By doing so, they hope to save them for a time beyond the end of the world in the 22nd century when life returns.

At the end of their work, Beauty grants Giles permission to carry out Mary Blossom out of Westfaire and live out their days.

Book Review of Beauty.
This retelling and weaving together of several fairy tales sometimes gives a rather sad twist to some of the stories. In this tale, there is a meanness in Beauty's daughter, Elly which prompts her to cause her stepsister's death unlike the kind Cinderella. And unlike Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which has the dwarfs taking Snow White in out of kindness and Show White being tricked again and again due to her trusting nature, here the little men actually lusted after Snow Drop and Beauty's granddaughter is fooled again and again because she is an idiot. The only one of her family whom Beauty grows to like is her great-grandson Giles who has inherited both her brains and beauty. Unfortunately although these unexpected twists certainly makes the tale more interesting, it ruins the fairy tales and leaves me feeling disappointed. The ending of Beauty no doubt is intended to be hopeful, but it only leaves me with a bad taste. Even in the face of destruction, can mankind not change and save the world ? Surely, yes. Yet, Beauty seems to say otherwise.

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