After a failed attempt at escape, the princess of a tiny kingdom begins to reevaluate her life. Caroline, a former marathon runner who dropped out of school at fourteen to pursue an Olympic medal, was the perfect candidate for a tiara: shapely, disciplined, accustomed to public attention, and utterly uneducated. After she meets Finn, the handsome prince of a small European kingdom, her fate is sealed, with a collar of pearls locked around her throat and a rope of diamonds leashing her to a balcony, Caroline uses her once-powerful body to smile, wave, and produce children with perfect grace. But once she begins to open her eyes to the world around her - and examine her own reflection - Caroline discovers that she may have entered a bargain that cannot be undone. Barbara Bourland's stunning third novel is her softest, strangest book to date. Inspired by the alleged escape attempts of real-life princesses and set in a grotesque and gaudy prerecession 2000s Europe, The Force of Such Beauty is a heart-wrenching and compulsively readable testament to the way in which real-life power structures around the world ultimately rest on the subjugation of women's bodies.
It’s about time someone took the princess story that’s normalized to girls and autopsy it with absolute precision ... not for the faint of heart; Bourland holds no punches with absolutely gruesome descriptions of medical trauma ... The stage is set for misery. Bourland reveals from the first handful of pages that Caroline is trapped at wit’s end on display as lover Finn’s gleaming jewel sequestered in the castle. Yet the writing is smart enough, the story good enough, to get swept away in their chemistry until reality comes crashing back ... Carefully crafted wordplay flits through the pages ... Descriptions fit for dreams or nightmares, vivid and evocative, capture how one’s environment can affect everything ... despite the narrator Caroline supposedly being uneducated, Bourland’s immense vocabulary still ekes through ... grips with the strength of an Olympian and holds it with the endurance of a marathoner. Bourland’s passionate storytelling transmogrifies into an insatiable urge to keep reading Caroline’s story even after its end — an ending that actually caught my breath, not once, but twice in quick succession.
This is not your grandma’s fairy tale ... Influenced by the struggles of real-life princesses, Bourland’s brilliant satire skewers the theatrics of power, excessive materialism and economic corruption.
With trademark style and sophistication Bourland plays with the tropes of the princess tales, true and not, that we know as well as our own names as she giftedly conjures Caroline’s glittering, threatening worlds. Despite danger everywhere, Caroline is the captivating narrator of her own story: a domestic drama, sparkling fairy tale, cautionary fable, and suspenseful mystery all laced into one.