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A Great and Terrible Beauty (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy) Paperback – March 22, 2005


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A Great and Terrible Beauty (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy) + Rebel Angels  (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy Book #2) + The Sweet Far Thing (Gemma Doyle, Book 3)
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 760L (What's this?)
  • Series: The Gemma Doyle Trilogy
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Ember; Reprint edition (March 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385732317
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385732314
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (535 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-worldly fantasy--jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel.

Gemma, 16, has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother’s death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls’ academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions "for a bit of fun" and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left wi! th the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the "others" and rebuild the Order. A Great and Terrible Beauty is an impressive first book in what should prove to be a fascinating trilogy. (Ages 12 up) –Patty Campbell --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up An interesting combination of fantasy, light horror, and historical fiction, with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure. On her 16th birthday, Gemma Doyle fights with her mother. She wants to leave India where her family is living, runs off when her mother refuses to send her to London to school, has a dreadful vision and witnesses her mother's death. Two months later, Gemma is enrolled in London's Spence School, still troubled by visions, and unable to share her grief and guilt over her loss. She gradually learns to control her vision and enter the "realms" where magical powers can make anything happen and where her mother waits to instruct her. Gradually she and her new friends learn about the Order, an ancient group of women who maintained the realms and regulated their power, and how two students unleashed an evil creature from the realms by killing a Gypsy girl. Gemma uncovers her mother's connection to those events and learns what she now must do. The fantasy element is obvious, and the boarding-school setting gives a glimpse into a time when girls were taught gentility and the importance of appearances. The author also makes a point about the position of women in Victorian society. Bray's characters are types--Felicity, clever and powerful; Ann, plain and timid; Pippa, beautiful and occasionally thoughtless; Gemma, spirited and chafing under society's rules--but not offensively so, and they do change as the story progresses. The ending leaves open the likelihood of a sequel. Recommend this to fantasy fans who also like Sherlock Holmes or Mary Russell.--Lisa Prolman, Greenfield Public Library, MA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

author spotlight
"I'm one of those people who has to write. If I don't write, I feel itchy and depressed and cranky. So everybody's glad when I write and stop complaining already."-Libba Bray

Libba Bray is the author of the acclaimed A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
What is it about writing an author bio that gives me that deer-in-headlights feeling? It's not exactly like I'm going to say "I was born in Alabama..." and somebody's going to jump up and snarl, "Oh yeah? Prove it!" At least I hope not.

I think what gets me feeling itchy is all that emphasis on the facts of a life, while all the juicy, relevant, human oddity stuff gets left on the cutting room floor. I could tell you the facts-I lived in Texas for most of my life; I live in New York City with my husband and five-year-old son now; I have freckles and a lopsided smile; I'm allergic to penicillin.

But that doesn't really give you much insight into me. That doesn't tell you that I stuck a bead up my nose while watching TV when I was four and thought I'd have to go to the ER and have it cut out. Or that I once sang a punk version of "Que Sera Sera" onstage in New York City. Or that I made everyone call me "Bert" in ninth grade for no reason that I can think of. See what I mean?

God is in the details. So with that in mind, here is my bio. Sort of.

TWENTY-ONE THINGS YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME
by Libba Bray

1. I lived in Texas until I was 26 years old, then I moved to New York City with $600.00 in my shoe ('cause muggers won't take it out of your shoe, y'know . . . riiiiight . . .) and a punchbowl (my grandmother's gift) under my arm. I ended up using the punchbowl box as an end table for two years.

2. My dad was a Presbyterian minister. Yes, I am one of those dreaded P.K.s-Preacher's Kids. Be afraid. Be very afraid . . .

3. The first story I ever wrote, in Mrs. McBee's 6th grade English class, was about a girl whose family is kidnapped and held hostage by a murderous lot of bank robbers who intend to kill the whole family-including the dog-until the 12-year-old heroine foils the plot and saves the day. It included colored pencil illustrations of manly-looking, bearded criminals smoking, and, oblivious to the fact that The Beatles had already sort of laid claim to the title, I called my novel, HELP. My mom still has a copy. And when I do something she doesn't like, she threatens to find it.

4. My favorite word is "redemption." I like both its meaning and the sound. My least favorite word is "maybe." "Maybe" is almost always a "no" drawn out in cruel fashion.

5. My three worst habits are overeating, self-doubt, and the frequent use of the "f" word.

6. The three things I like best about myself are my sense of humor, my ability to listen, and my imagination.

7. I have an artificial left eye. I lost my real eye in a car accident when I was eighteen. In fact, I had to have my entire face rebuilt because I smashed it up pretty good. It took six years and thirteen surgeries. However, I did have the pleasure of freezing a plastic eyeball in an ice cube, putting it in a friend's drink, ("Eyeball in your highball?") and watching him freak completely. Okay, so maybe that's not going down on my good karma record. But it sure was fun.

8. In 7th grade, my three best friends and I dressed up as KISS and walked around our neighborhood on Halloween. Man, we were such dorks.

9. I once spent New Year's Eve in a wetsuit. I'd gone to the party in a black dress that was a little too tight (too many holiday cookies) and when I went to sit down, the dress ripped up the back completely. Can we all say, mortified? The problem was, my friends were moving out of their house-everything was packed and on a truck-and there was nothing I could put on . . . but a wetsuit that they still had tacked to the wall. I spent the rest of the party maneuvering through throngs of people feeling like a giant squid.

10. I got married in Florence, Italy. My husband and I were in love but totally broke, so we eloped and got married in Italy, where he was going on a business trip. We had to pull a guy off the street to be our witness. It was incredibly romantic. Florence is still one of my favorite cities in the world.

11. I often write in longhand and type it into the computer later, editing as I go. Sitting in my favorite coffeehouse with a new notebook and a hot cup of java is my idea of heaven.

12. I'm related to Davy Crockett on my mom's side. Honest.

13. I grew up doing theatre and spent a long time as a playwright. I still think very visually when I write.

14. Some of my favorite movies of all time (subject to change when I think of other movies I love) are All About Eve, Brazil, Blade Runner, Spinal Tap, Citizen Kane, Harold & Maude, To Kill a Mockingbird, Singin' in the Rain, and probably a million more that I can't think of right now. I have never made it through The Wizard of Oz without crying. Not once.

15. Naming my favorite books feels like naming a favorite child-impossible. But here's my list of some Y.A. books I love as of 4:03pm today. Tithe by Holly Black. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. Lord of the Flies by William Golding. 33 Snowfish by Adam Rapp. Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher. Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (not really Y.A. but I read it when I was 16 and it rocked my world). Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Here's what's on my nightstand to read: The First Part Last by Angela Johnson. Acceleration by Graham McNamee. The Literary Opus of Daniel Elam by Daniel Elam. By the Time You Finish this Book You Might Be Dead by Aaron Zimmerman.

16. I love to be scared. Not "hey, I think I smell smoke . . ." scared, but creepy, paranoid, what's-that-out-there-in-the-dark, ghost story scared. It's no surprise that I was the girl who got invited to the slumber parties because I could be counted on to tell a tale to scare the bejesus out of you.

17. In homage to a book I just read entitled, FIVE MEN WHO BROKE MY HEART, I submit: The first boy who broke my heart (age 6) didn't want to sit next to me because I'd wet my pants in reading circle once and he thought I was gross. Damn my small bladder! The second boy who broke my heart (age 16) was a drummer with a band (the start of a trend, folks...) and he threw me over for a really cool chick I couldn't even bring myself to hate. The third boy who broke my heart (ages 20--24, ay yi yi . . .) was a strapping hunk of bodaciousness with the mind of Einstein. We had the exact same birthday, same year and everything. So the time he forgot to wish me a happy birthday was kind of the beginning of the end, I think. The fourth boy who broke my heart (age 25) was also a drummer. I had to stop with the drummers. The fifth boy . . . well, I married him, and if he breaks my heart, I'm going to burn all his favorite, rare import punk vinyl in the middle of the living room, so he's been warned.

18. I'm one of those people who has to write. If I don't write, I feel itchy and depressed and cranky. So everybody's glad when I write and stop complaining already.

19. My Pennsylvania Dutch great-great-great grandmother was supposedly a psychic who could see and speak to the dead. Sort of a witch, I guess. Her husband was an undertaker, and she would have these visions of someone bringing in a string of a particular size (people were measured for their coffins in this way) and it would come true. Creepy stuff, but fascinating.

20. If I were stuck on a deserted island, the five indispensable CDs I'd take would be London Calling by the Clash, Quadrophenia by The Who, Aretha Franklin's Greatest Hits, To Venus and Back by Tori Amos, and Elvis Costello's Greatest Hits.

21. I hate doughnuts. Weird but true.

Customer Reviews

Libba Bray does an excellent job at writing a great story.
katlynn
It was one of those books that you just have to keep reading because the pace is fast and exciting, and leave you hanging by the end of every chapter.
Jillian R
Gemma Doyle's story ended with so many loose ends in this book that I felt a little cheated.
Shimmertje

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

123 of 131 people found the following review helpful By CoffeeGurl HALL OF FAME on May 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book on a whim because the premise seemed interesting. A Great and Terrible Beauty is one of the most beautiful historical and gothic novels I have read in a while. The story enthralled me from beginning to end. Sixteen-year-old Gemma Doyle is different from the other girls at the London boarding school she lives in after her mother's tragic and strange death in India. In addition to not having the conformist mentality that girls of her class and station are trained to have, Gemma has a deep, dark problem that she does not know how to control. She has visions of tragic things that come true and has the magic key to enter an alternate place called the Realms, where every desire -- as well as every nightmare -- can come true. When she finds the diary of a girl with similar powers, she learns about a secret society called the Order, and she and three friends decide to explore the magical and strange world. But there are things that Gemma doesn't know about, secrets and mysteries that she will have to figure out on her own. And she tries to do this while a rather strange Indian boy keeps an eye on her and demands that she put a stop to her visions. There are various twists throughout the novel.

A Great and Terrible Beauty is the sort of novel that you cannot put down because there are so many elements, so many layers that make the novel compelling and enthralling. I loved the backdrop of Victorian England and the way women were viewed and what was expected from them in those times. The female characters spoke volumes about this particularly difficult time period for women. Pippa's desire to meet the perfect prince touched me. She is a very flawed character, but with dreams and desires that spoke to me. Felicity is also quite a complex character.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on January 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"Wow!" was all I could say after reading this book. I was awed by the characters, the setting and the lyracisim of the story, which seemed so believable despite its fantastical plot. The book centers around Gemma Doyle, a 16-year-old British teen living in India during the late 1800's. Anxious to go live in London, Gemma is miserable in this foreign land, to say the least. When her mother dies mysteriously, Gemma is sent to an English boarding school, Spence, to finish her education.
But trouble doesn't stop there. Gemma is haunted by mysterious visions, where she sees her mother, a young girl and a myserious beast. At the same time, she must attempt to assimilate into the elite Spence society. Later, Gemma uncovers the diary of Mary Dowd, which unleases the story of the Order, an old Spence society, no longer existing, that was comprised of girls who traveled to other realms and the spirit world. In addition, the secrets of Mary's death, and her friend Sarah's, are unraveled. When one of Gemma's new friends decides to reinstate the Order, Gemma and two others join her. But this coming-of-age heroine will quickly discover that all is not as it seems...and someone (something?) is after her.
This is an incredible story. It is well-written and captivating. The characters, especially Gemma's friend Felicity, literally seem to step off the pages and enter our world. But what really sets this book apart from any others is the way that Libba Bray has woven a sharp analysis of Victorian society into a gripping fictional tale. A Great and Terrible Beauty is a must-read that will stick with young adult readers long after the last page has been turned.
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235 of 295 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
What, in your opinion, is more important: What an author has to say or how an author chooses to say it? Take, for example, Libby Bray's, "A Great and Terrible Beauty". Set in a Victorian era girl's boarding school, the book has the uneasy task of having a great voice and yet not much in the way of a plot. Bray struggles to weave together the different components that made up (wealthy) women's lives in 19th century Britain. At times she is exceedingly gifted. At others, she falls short of the mark.

Gemma Doyle was born and raised in India with her mother, father, and brother. Having just turned sixteen she is like any other adolescent girl, getting into squabbles with her mom and pouting that she cannot go to live in England. Deliverance for Gemma comes as a very mixed blessing when she witnesses her mother's suicide (in a vision, no less) and is sent to an all-girl's finishing school outside of London. Falling into the usual petty squabbles of popularity and independence, Gemma eventually comes to realize that there is more to the Spence Academy, and herself, than she could ever have known. In a madcap tale of gypsies, magical powers, and deep dark soul-sucking evil Gemma has to face up to her own personal demons as well as the very real spirits that wish her, and her friends, harm.

One one level, this is just your typical romantic bodice-ripper complete with virile dangerous young men and the comedy of manners that set the standards so long ago. Reading this book really seemed to me to be a kind of "The Craft" meets "The Little Princess". Gemma befriends both popular and unpopular alike and much of the book dwells on the problems haunting each of her friends.
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