Monday, January 19, 2015

Book Review: Belle by Cameron Dokey

Once in a while, in our brief mortal span, you discover a story—sometimes it’s a gift straight from the author to you—sometimes it is a given through the medium of another person/reader (either because you did not know of it or for some mad reason resisted getting it). And for me the person was Heidi and the reason the latter. Everybody has different stories that warm every part of you. For my part I had exactly three in that place: “Light of the Western Stars”, “Shattered Summer”, and “A Tangled Web”. Why those three exactly I cannot say—even I can see their crazy points—but it was exactly that number until this story came along. And now readers, I have a very definite forth.

I don’t know why reading is thought of as such a mild way to spend one’s time… It is nor—or at least the reading of splendid stories isn’t. Reading those can leave you joyful or tragic or simply weak from the beauty of them, and that is exactly what “Belle” did to me.

The story and writing is at once lyrical and relevant (the “scene upon the lake” particularly brims with such clarity of the starlight that you really are nearly there with the Beast and Belle) and the entire story is made of the stuff of lovely dreams—with such presence that at any moment you might expect to meet the characters. But it is a love story that goes so much deeper than simple romance. It’s about the love that is at the very heart of life, the love that leaves you dizzy and shaky simply from the beauty of its description (and I should know because that’s exactly what this story did to me). I read it backwards and forwards at least three times in two days and every word is put in with delicate precision in exactly the right moment. It’s dazzling and I could read it over and over again reveling in every refreshing passage and delighting in every turn and shade of the characters. Ah, the characters who brim and sparkle with every intensity of human feeling yet in an entirely real way. The author’s take on Belle’s family is so unique and lovely: the parents being loving and not foolish, the sisters being given a fresh “nice” twist—and all of it without losing, but rather enhancing the feel of the fairy-tale as, for one, it shows all that Belle had to lose by going to the Beast as she really had no reason or desire to wish to leave them in the first place. (And as a slight aside, her one sister’s romance is so adorable!)

Finally, Belle and the Beast… Belle is completely authentic. She has the honesty, hard working nature, contentment in a place and loving heart that is central to the character, but yet she gets disconcerted and sometimes says the wrong thing. The Beast… He is compelling and gentle, strong and rather vulnerable all in the space of five seconds. Yes, I must mention the Five Second Thing. It is so neat how it mounts tension and increases the mystery. Though I have always liked the Beast, I have never—with the possible exception of Prince Philip form the Disney “Sleeping Beauty”—had a fairy-tale prince on my list of favorite heroes, but this Beast is most decidedly on it.

Altogether this story has the spirit which is the heart of all true fairy-tales—that of making “real life” all the more real and I love it!!

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