The story is the conventional one of Beauty & the Beast: the father who inadvertently trespasses on the enchanted castle, and who must send one of his daughters to live with the Beast who inhabits it; the growing love between the Beast and the girl; the overstayed leave-of-absence and how it brings the Beast close to death, causing the girl to proclaim her love for him, unwittingly breaking the enchantment he was under.

The traditional storyline is nicely embellished in this version, with homely details of the life of the merchant and his daughters. The way in which the family faces up to the ruin of their business, in particular the care the father takes to pay his debts, is exemplary. In addition, all characters are generous to a fault: Ger, newly married to one of the daughters, offers to share the house attached to the smithy he has bought; the ostler gives Beauty a valuable horse; after the auction of their belongings, the family finds many objects left for them by their friends and neighbours. One can find no fault, either, with the atmosphere in the enchanted castle ruled over by the beast. Beauty is treated with the utmost care and attention, and the Beast does not press his attentions on her when she does not wish it.

The setting of the story is slightly indeterminate, as is the way in fairy tales. The author plays a game or two when talking about the library which contains books unknown to the well-read Beauty such as Kipling’s Kim and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and there are constant references to the ancient Classics in which Beauty immerses herself.

Tim Golden is a computer programmer in London.  He also is the editor of the Good-to-Read website.