I adjust the eyescope lens, zooming in on excited onlookers, noticing how some of their skin tones have faded, like paintings that have faced the sun too long; how their hair is graying at the roots, and age-lines are creasing several brows.
It’s a reminder of why I’m here.
I am a Belle.
I control beauty.
– From The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
So, what’s this one about?
The Belles is set in the fictional world of Orléans, where a group of women, the titular Belles, have the power to make the dull and dreary inhabitants of Orléans more or less beautiful. Their innate powers are developed through intense training and curtailed by rules and traditions. Over the course of the novel, the central Camellia Beauregard, a member of the Belles, faces decisions that call into question her training, the Belle traditions and threaten the very fabric of Orléans society.
Who’s it by?
The Belles is written by Dhonielle Clayton, a New York City based writer and literary activist. Dhonielle has a long history with books, from spending hours under her grandmother’s table with a stack of books to working as a middle school librarian. A former teacher, in addition to being a writer she is currently COO of We Need Diverse Books and founder of Cake Literary, a literary development company specialising in diverse books for teen, YA and women. readers. She tweets as @brownbookworm.
Why should I read it?
The Belles is a novel that explores the human obsession with beauty. In Orléans, just as in our world, beauty is fleeting, commoditised and not always what it seems to be. Dhonielle draws on real-world examples such as the court of Marie Antoinette and the customs and rituals of the Japanese geisha to explore how beauty practices become embedded in society as well as the effect they have, in particular, on the social status of women.
“You can never be clean enough, pretty enough, or smart enough.”
― Dhonielle Clayton, The Belles
Like any good fantasy novel, The Belles is transporting. Dhonielle creates a world that is beautiful and opulent – a world of ‘raspberry and lemon macarons and tiny pastel blimps and pink champagne and card games’. However, beneath the surface, it is the moral ugliness that threatens peace and order in Orléans society. By exposing this duality Dhonielle offers a captivating and thought-provoking exploration of the very nature of beauty
When is it out?
The Belles was released earlier this week, Tuesday 6th February 2018.
Where can I get a copy?
The Belles is available online and in all good bookshops.
Let us know if you get a copy, but more importantly, be sure to let us know what you think of the book!