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!!

13 comments:

  1. This sounds great! The library has a couple other books by this author, but not this one.

    I'm just a little over half done with Light of the Western Stars and absolutely loving it! Thanks so much for that recommendation a while back.

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    1. Hamlette,
      I hope you like it! And your library has others of her books? That's wonderful! Have you ever had the chance to read any?

      I couldn't be more pleased that you are relishing Light of the Western Stars so much! Though I don't agree with every ideal within its covers, there is just something about the story and the setting and the descriptions, isn't there? :) I have recently starting getting very much into westerns but as a fairly new reader in the genre I was wondering if you, as a Professional Western Fan, have any particular favorites?

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    2. I didn't even know they existed until this post! I'm hoping to get the one about Rapunzel soon, as it's one they have.

      Now I will tell you a sad truth: I haven't read many westerns. Watched them by the hundreds, yes, but for some reason, I just haven't read lots of them. Which I'm starting to remedy! Since last year, I've been making a conscious effort to read more westerns.

      I really like "Hondo" by Louis L'Amour and "Shane" by Jack Schaefer. Those are two I've read more than once and own copies of. We've already discussed "Riders of the Purple Sage," I think. There's a good, little-known trilogy of Christian westerns called The Diamond of the Rockies by Kristen Heitzmann. They're a little more romancey than I often get into, but it's a really good romance, and not gloopy. You can see more about them here on the author's website. I love that it doesn't end with them getting married, but goes through this very interesting, struggling marriage to figure out how it will all work.

      I've also been enjoying the work of writer Elizabeth Grace Foley -- I've read both her novel "Left-Hand Kelly" and her short-story collection "The Ranch Next Door and Other Stories." I greatly liked the short stories, and the novel was good too, though I didn't love it. (I might consider sending it your way if you'd like to read it...)

      And I LOVE the original Zorro book, "The Mark of Zorro" by Johnston McCulley. Wonderful and fun.

      Hmm, what else? OH! "Sixteen Brides" by Stephanie Grace Witson. If you haven't read this yet, Get It As Soon As You Can!

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    3. OH! And "The Virginian" by Owen Wister. I own and love that one too.

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    4. Hamlette,
      Thanks for the recommendations! I will be sure to check them out! I know Heidi owns "The Virginian" and "Zorro."

      When looking up "Hondo" on the library I saw that there was a film version of it starring John Wayne. Have you ever watched it?

      All this talk about "Light of the Western Stars" and "Riders of the Purple Stage" has been too much for me and I decided I must read them again! I ordered them from the library, so in the first time in forever - isn't that a line from Frozen or something? Well whatever it is it is super apt in this case - I'm going to hold the real things in my hands! I've read my favorite parts in LOTWS about 2 dozen times on my laptop, but holding a real book in your hands is just totally different, as if you were meeting one of your already-very-best-friends for the first time!

      Oh, and I would love to read "Left-Hand Kelly!"

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    5. "Hondo" is a great John Wayne movie! One of my 10 favorite JW westerns.

      If I ever find a used copy of LOTWS, I'm so buying it.

      And I'll set LHK aside to include next time I send a box to your house.

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    6. Hamlette,
      In my whole life I have only seen two John Wayne's, Fort Apache and Rio Grande and I liked him very much in the first, but hopefully sometime this coming week I may be able to help the deficiency by watching Stagecoach . :)

      Oh, and thanks a lot! :)

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    7. Stagecoach is fascinating! I love stories about a diverse bunch of characters being stuck together in trying circumstances and having to work together even if they don't like each other, which is pretty much what the whole movie is about. And oh my, is John Wayne ever young in it!!! It's the movie that made him a star, not just a steadily working actor.

      I like both Fort Apache and Rio Grande fairly well, though I like She Wore a Yellow Ribbon better, possibly just because I've seen it more often.

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    8. Hamlette,
      Seeing John Wayne as a practical youth always does something to my brain. :) And yes, those stories are always so fascinating!

      I haven't seen She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, but Heidi and Arwen both love it. :) As for the others - I really like John Wayne in Fort Apache, but I like Tyree in Rio Grande so it's kind of a draw between the films.

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  2. I'll have to see if my library has this one! I love Beauty and the Beast!

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    1. Natalie,
      Wonderful. :) I hope it does!

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  3. I love Beauty and the Beast so much, I've got to add this one to my must-read list!

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    1. Faith,
      It is such an amazingly thrill worthy and powerful story isn't it? Yes, I get kind of excited about it too. :) it's so timeless as well... I actually just found a "modern" ie. early 1900's non-magic retelling of it last month and reading it two times I fell quite in love with the whole idea of it all over again! Do you have a favorite re-telling?

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