Book - Beauty
The latest from the talented Tepper ( The Gate to Women's Country ) is many things: a fantasy of manners, a dystopian science fiction tale, a time-travel story and an eco-morality play. Still more impressive is the evolution of the narrator and title character, whom we follow for a century of life (ages 16 to 116) as she matures gradually and subtly from a pouty, slightly spoiled daughter of a duke to a wise old woman. Retelling various fairy tales, Tepper strips away each story's gloss. Sleeping Beauty's sleep continues endlessly, prince notwithstanding; Cinderella is as heartless and nasty to her ugly stepsisters as they are to her; and Snow White is a blond bimbo, while the dwarfs are a querulous collection of Basque brothers. Tepper manages to maintain interest, style and theme throughout these disparate elements, and she consistently sniffs out the ugly (e.g., the storybook land of Chinanga, which has all the facets of a fairyland but is an extremely boring place to live). Despite an often depressing worldview, this is a beautiful book from one of the genre's best writers.