Customer Review

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars compelling, but thoughtless and didactic, 27 Nov. 2005
This review is from: Beauty (FANTASY MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
First of all, it is worth noting that this book is EXTREMELY well-written (at least in my opinion) and I genuinely enjoyed both its opening and its conclusion.
The middle sections of the book, however, were profoundly disappointing, not to say unsettling. This was not so much because of the journeying through time, although I thought that a poorly-incoporated plot-device, but the nature of the challenges the protaganist encounters. Whilst I think that very disturbing themes can successfully and sensitively be encorporated into fairy-tale fantasy fiction (and Robin McKinley's wonderful "Deerskin" is a great example of this) I felt that in Tepper's "Beauty", these themes were presented almost as arguments to prove various "points". This is not to say I'm not in favour of novels which address issues of gender equality or exploitation, or of man's relation to the environment, it is just that I felt that these points felt laboured within "Beauty". This laboured approach is perhaps most tellingly demonstrated in the account of the heroine's visit to hell, which was rather medieval in its almost smug descriptions of the physical discomfiture of those who had transgressed, particularly against women. There should be better, stronger and higher arguments against rape than that the perpetrator will suffer for it. (I also felt that a book which took such a strong moral position in relation to some issues ought not to have contained some of the disturbing assumptions it did: that, for example, the heroine's daughter can be evil and tainted from birth.)
The overall tone of the book, then, feels didactic, with many characters seeming reduced to cyphers or stereotypes so that individuals fail to disrupt the "pattern" of the very flawed world Tepper presents her reader with. For my personal tastes, too, the conclusion had a rather weak spirituality, whilst the proposal that the "flawed" world should be allowed to self-destruct, only to allow a new one to spring from the seed of the sleeping Beauty, seemed to destroy the significance of all the novel's (under-developed) characters apart from the protagonist.
All this said, I read the novel quite a number of years ago, and it has clearly made a very strong impression on me! I was tempted to give this work only 2 stars, but I realised that my deepest criticisms of at are rather personal: others may find Tepper's concentration on issues rather than characters refreshing, and her style enthralling.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Sep 2010 22:34:07 BDT
mermaid says:
I have many issues with your critique. 'Beauty' - which I think makes its points with a sardonic humour; uses the character of Snow White to illustrate that psychopaths/ sociopaths are born, not made.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jan 2011 16:02:07 GMT
Mermaid, that is a highly contentious point! I'm more inclined to believe that faeries exist!

I was going to write my own review, but I can't add much more to what Ms. S. Hogan has written above. This is an original and highly memorable book, and Tepper's ability to blend sci-fi and fantasy is wonderful. I found myself getting a bit lost towards the middle and end of the book, where the story became a little weaker. It is both beautiful and sad, and I'm glad I read it.
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