Is it possible that ten years could pass as one? A single afternoon with Marcus could demand an hour’s telling: the feel of the sun on my face, the looks that passed between us, the things he said to make me blush. Yet I can recount the decade after our parting in a few words: My life carried on, unchanged. Within the castle, day followed day, month after month, the rituals of court unaltered by the passing of time. Yet beyond our walls the shadows gathered. The evil we had sought to hold off for so long swirled inexorably closer, spreading suspicion and panic in its wake. (241)
A few of us at work have started a fairy tale/classic literature retellings book club, which sounds very specific, but it was after reading this post and after we all enjoyed While Beauty Slept. I also happened to be reading the Lunar Chronicles, which I’ll post about soon, so it’s turning into something of a themed reading month for me! If you’re interested in following along at home, the next book we’ll be reading for this book club is called Dark Companion by Marta Acosta, a retelling of Jane Eyre.
While Beauty Slept takes the story of Sleeping Beauty and puts it into a plausible historical context. It begins with Elise as an old woman, overhearing her great-granddaughter telling a story about a witch who casts a spell over a castle, filling it with sleeping sickness, until the princess is woken up by true love’s kiss. Elise, though, knows the true story, the real story of what happened and it has nothing to do with magic.
One of the best things about While Beauty Slept is seeing a fairy tale you know well in a new way. The book can drag on in parts, but it’s worth it to see how the tragedy of Rose, the beautiful princess, and her lady-in-waiting Elise plays out. I also loved that Elise is truly the main character, not just a witness to the “heroine’s” story. Elise herself is the heroine, a woman born of humble means, who uses her intelligence and honesty to become someone important to the queen and her daughter.