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The story of Beauty and the Beast has fascinated me from childhood, I was swept away by La belle et la Bete. Still am every time I see it but it wasn't until the following incident occurred in my own life that my fascination with the legend took a potentially literary form.
Some years ago, my son and I were having a midday drink in a City of London tavern. A group of fellow customers, lunch break evidently over, started to head our way - making for the exit, which happened to be close by us. We stood aside to make room for the party to pass.
Checking for pretty girls as the troupe filtered by, my attention was snagged by the appearance among them of the ugliest female I had ever seen in my life. The words just came out - too loud: "How ugly is that?"
"She heard you, Dad, she heard you," my son protested, appalled and disgusted.
And I knew she'd heard me - I had seen it in her stricken eyes as she passed. I never will forget that look.
The incident will haunt me to my dying day. I often wonder how she is - how life has treated her, how she's coping with the burden of her looks. I hope she's found love and happiness, someone to adore her. This novel is a tribute to her, that stranger, and personal act of exorcism.
on Jan. 10, 2014 :
“The Advent of Lena: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast” is a contemporary take on a classic tale, subverting the general gender and character expectations into a unique new story. One day when the incredibly handsome Park is in a tavern with his friend, he makes a rude remark about a very ugly woman named Chloe—and he’s punched by Chloe’s friend for his callousness. It’s a moment of epiphany for Park, and he realizes he wants to be a better person than the shallow womanizer he currently is. He decides the only path to redemption is winning Chloe’s heart, and he insistently pursues her, though he doesn’t always (or even often) live up to the new moral standard he has set as his goal.
Unlike in the traditional Beauty and the Beast tale, both characters can be seen as beauty OR the beast; Chloe is beastly on the outside but beautiful on the in, while Park is beautiful on the outside and beastly within. Together, they could be whole and reconcile those qualities—that is, if Park can develop a better nature and Chloe can open herself up to the possibility of a relationship that looks past her appearance.
As other reviewers have noted, Park is not a likeable character—his motivations to be a better person are admirable but his constant failure (and treatment of other women, including the devout Julia and the scheming Miriam) are not. Chloe is very likeable, as a woman who has managed to mostly accept herself (though she still sees herself as physically lovely in her dreams, making me think she hasn’t accepted herself as much as she says). All of the characters—even the supporting ones—are flawed and human, and in the end “The Advent of Lena” is a fairy tale that is made realistic by the modernity of its characters and situations. The tension that keeps the pages turning is whether or not Park really will rise to the challenge of becoming a better person and whether Chloe will find the happiness and relationship she deserves. Recommended to readers who enjoy more adult retellings of fairy tales, stories about redemption and self-discovery, and contemporary fiction in general.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on Sep. 09, 2011 :
VERY boring...and slow. The 'hero' is a complete ass, the 'heroine' is a doormat and the friends...even worse. Couldn't finish. I got about halfway through and just couldn't care about even one character in the book.
(review of free book)