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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Beauty by Sheri Tepper

Beauty is retelling of Sleeping Beauty with several other fairy tales mixed in.

(I started this review after reading the first chapters, then finished the book, and have had a huge delay in completing the review because my pleasure didn't continue.)

3/31/12 I've decided to take a few notes as I read because the Foreword intrigued me and then, in the first few pages, other incidents caught my attention.

The Foreword is written by Carabosse, "the fairy of clocks, keeper of the secrets of time."  Carabosse remarks that Beauty was given many gifts when she was born, "Though it is regrettable that no one gave her the gift of intelligence (a  gift not highly valued in Faery, she has a practicality that often makes up for that lack."

Now, intelligence is rarely mentioned in fairy tales, so I'm curious already.

A few pages into the story, Beauty describes the education she receives from her aunts.  She is taught sewing by her Aunt Marjoram "(who was herself educated by the Sisters of the Immediate Conception at St. Mary of Perpetual Surprise)" and music by her Aunt Lavender "who, though tone deaf, plays upon the lute with great brio and a blithesome disregard for accuracy."

Tepper has my full attention now and has made me smile.



The first section was so charming, so delightful.  Unfortunately, the rest of the book, although interesting, was not at all charming.  I was so disappointed.

With the first incidence of time travel, things degenerate.  Up until Beauty leaves her own time period for the first time, the story was a delightful alternative version of Sleeping Beauty--unfortunately, that was only a very small percentage of the book.

While Tepper makes several points with which I completely agree, the book becomes an unpleasant polemic.  While I can understand and completely agree with her views about our lack of care concerning the environment and her distaste for books that  celebrate violence and abuse, her bitterness defeated the purpose for me.  Tepper's inclusion of violence and abuse, her completely dark view of the fate of the world--leaves a feeling of despair.

What would have pleased me much more would have been a story that presents alternatives and inspiration for working for a change.

From such a bright beginning, the book turned into a struggle to read and on finishing it, a feeling of having accomplished nothing.

Fiction.  Fairy Tale/Time Travel/


  1. I've only read one of her novels The Gate to Women's Country and found it totally absorbing, really fascinating but I haven't read anything else. I got Grass here, it's said to be one of her best. I was thinking about getting this one as well.
    Too bad it wasn't that good.

  2. I think The Gate was the first Tepper novel I ever read and that was years ago! I, too, found it fascinating. I've read Grass, but don't remember liking it as much.

    Read The Waters Rising a couple of years ago and found it a bit "so, so." Beauty, which began so well, didn't appeal to me at all.

  3. Interesting to read your impressions! I read 'Beauty' last year, and while I agree parts of it are not exactly enjoyable, I was very struck with the way she really engaged with the 100 years sleep, in a way which most adaptors of Sleeping Beauty fail to do. I found it an impressive book,though not at all what I'd expected.

  4. Katherine - I thought the way she handled the sleep interesting, too. I liked the "substitute sleeper" idea. Actually, though, now that I think about it, I'm curious about those in the castle and their eventual awakening.

    Poor Beauty, by escaping the sleep and aging with the time transitions, she didn't have much of a youth.

  5. I've read a couple of Tepper's books and really liked them. haven't read this one though. too bad it turned out so disappointing!

  6. Stefanie - Maybe it was because I was looking for something more in the "fairy tale" category, I just wasn't in the mood for the switch in tone. Of the four books by Tepper that I've read, this was my least favorite.

    I wonder what other readers have thought about it? Katherine liked it, and she certainly has fairy tale experience!

  7. Oh, I thought this was going to be about Robin McKinley's Beauty--how interesting there's another one with the same title! Although apparently you might have been better off with McKinley's...too bad this one didn't live up to its potential!

  8. Cheryl - McKinley's Beauty is on my list!

  9. I also thought this was going to be about Robin McKinley's book which I do want to read.
    It's a shame you didn't enjoy it!
    Lynn :D

  10. Lynn - I'll be eager to see what you think of it if you get a chance to read it!