By Sneha Jaiswal (Twitter | Instagram)

My last read (‘The Dead’ by James Joyce) was so disappointing, I had to read something that would make me feel good about finishing 100 books in 2022. So, I picked ‘Beauty’ a graphic novel by Hubert and artist duo Kerascoët because their artwork is quite magical.

‘Beauty’ is a dark tale about deceptive physical appearances and the dangerous consequences of unparalleled allure. As soon as the tale began, it instantly reminded me of a character from the Hindi epic ‘Mahabharatha’ – Matsyagandha, literally meaning one that smells like fish, who becomes Queen Satyavati. Just like Matsyagandha, Coddie, the protagonist of ‘Beauty’ also smells like fish and is rid of the smell through the virtue of a boon and eventually marries a king.

Coddie is often made fun of by everybody in the village because she is ugly and smelly, but the young girl meets a fairy who grants her a wish that enables people to see her as the most beautiful woman in the world. All men start to dangerously lust after her and it takes years for the simple-dumb Coddy to realize how her wish only spells trouble. From the village drunkard, to none other than the king himself, every body wants a piece of Beauty, a name Coddy takes up after the physical transformation.

That ‘beauty is a dangerous illusion’ is the biggest takeaway from this graphic novel that’s meant for adults. It has a lot of violence, sexual undertones and no ‘Aesop Fable’ like lessons to impart. I like Kerascoët’s illustrations because they are reminiscent of the drawings in a popular children’s magazine, I grew up reading. However, their childlike artwork offers an interesting contrast to the adult themes the story delves into. From feeling sympathetic towards Coddie, to despising her as Beauty, the readers are taken on a roller-coaster ride that starts as a simple sorry tale about a poor ugly village girl and goes to the dizzying heights of politics, wars that sees the same girl transform into an extravagant whimsical Queen who makes the King dance on her little fingers.

It’s a 5/5 from me!

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