Book Nook: ‘Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book’ charming addition to fairy tale

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A tale as old as time is surely worth re-telling.

“Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book” by Jennifer Donnelly is a charming addition to the many stories based on the fairy tale of beauty meets beast. Set within the movie-version of the world Disney established, Donnelly doesn’t re-tread old ground; instead, she gives readers a new story to consider.

I was instantly drawn in, as a story within the story opened the book. Two sisters, named Love and Death, vie against each other. Their tools in this battle are human lives.

Their current focus is Belle and the Beast, with Death betting that Belle will never learn to love the Beast. Love agrees to the wager.

But Death never plays fair.

Death tries to tempt Belle to escape her worries by entering an enchanted book, where Death rules supreme. As this takes place early in Belle’s time in the ensorcelled castle, it is easy to see why Belle would want to escape the dark halls and the raging Beast.

I loved Donnelly’s re-imagining of Belle and the Beast’s story. It was clear that by movie canon, this story could be slid into the movie’s narrative around when the winter montage “Something There” occurs. But unlike the “Beauty and the Beast: An Enchanted Christmas” movie  an unpopular spin of of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” franchise  that tried to cram itself into that gap, Donnelly wove the book into the pre-existing narrative and gave readers more reasons behind the different characters’ actions. 

Particularly poignant was a conversation between Belle and Mrs. Potts, explaining why the servants were so devoted to their lord:

“‘You have so many questions, child. And who wouldn’t? Let me at least answer your first one: we stay with our master because we will not abandon him twice.’

‘Twice?’ Belle had repeated. ‘I don’t understand.’

‘We knew how terrible his father was to him, and yet we did nothing,’ Mrs. Potts had said, clearly distressed. ‘That man was the true beast, and we were too frightened to stand up to him. Our master needs us now as much as he did then, and this time we will not forsake him.’”

With natural conversation between characters, Donnelly answered many questions that critics of “Beauty and the Beast” have leveled at the movie over the years, such as why the servants were so loyal to the Beast, and lightly touches on topics such as what is love, who is truly free, and the dangers of escapism. All which Donnelly encapsulated in a well-written fairy tale.

My only point of criticism is the occasional anachronism When Belle calls another character a “jerk” and other jarring moments, it disrupts the expected dialogue.

Overall, if you are looking for a good story to pass the time or to get you pumped up for the March release of “Beauty and the Beast” the live-action movie , Donnelly’s “Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book,” released Jan. 31 is an excellent read.

Dixie Sun rating: 4.5 out of 5 suns