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A Great and Terrible Beauty (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy) Paperback – March 22, 2005
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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 mothers 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.
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Top Customer Reviews
"I’m running because I can, because I must. Because I want to see how far I can go before I have to stop."
So anyway, this book was one of my favorites in middle school- it had everything I liked: historical fiction with a dash of the paranormal. However, Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty is so much more than that. It's a staunchly feminist YA novel that should have more recognition among young girls everywhere. And here's why:
Gemma: Gemma is, without a doubt, a beautifully written main character. Though she may be a "chosen one", the girl is definitely NO Mary Sue! She can be annoying, pushy, and quite mean at times- as well as very judgmental and ignorant,, but she is a sixteen year old girl. And sixteen year olds, especially ones that have been privileged their whole lives, are know-it-alls. And Libba Bray writes her very well. I grew to love Gemma! She get's her ass handed to her- and I enjoyed watching her grow into a better friend/person.
Friendships: This is a book that celebrates female friendship vs. young girls clamoring for the love of some aloof boy. There is this trend in YA where the main character is hounded by other girls and is left to only only associate with some handsome male (throneofglasscougchcough) and it is so great to read a story about friendship and sisterhood.
Also, this book is no love story! However, Gemma still finds herself "in like" with a character named Kartik. I found this pollen to be written very well- there is no "insta-love", because in real life,especially at Gemma's age, "insta-love" is more "insta-i wanna kiss you" and it was interesting to see Gemma wrestle with her feelings and be confused. It was realistic! And I liked how he didn't crumble for her! Libya Bray let's them be their own characters.
Themes : There are so many wonderful themes in this book! Feminism? Racism? Classism? Xenophobia? All of that is discussed and weaved in brilliantly. I would go into details, but there would be spoilers.
This book impacted me so much that I bought a tons of copies and campaigned to have it integrated into my high-school's English curriculum. Of course, it helped that my high-school was an all girls school, ex-finishing school much like Spence.
Thank you Libba Bray! Thank you!
There are many criticisms about the novel. 1. That the writing is verbose. Well, I will admit that Bray's style is quite heavy, but ti works here- it is seems that a lack of brevity fits into the victorian setting. 2. That the POC are made fun and are regarded inappropriately. I understand that- but Gemma isn't going to automatically not be prejudiced or ignorant. Gemma is kind of a bitch. But she grows throughout the novel and the book- and begins to view those different from her differently. I appreciated the fact that Bray didn't go easy on Gemma.
A Great and Terrible Beauty is one part Harry Potter, one part The CW, and one part Pride and Prejudice. Only darker. Much darker. It starts to border on the edge of material that makes certain mothers reading their daughter’s books stop and freak out. It’s not filled with “nice” magic like Harry Potter or Game of Thrones (ha!), but that “I summon, thee!” kinda magic that made the Puritans get all crazy.
At first, I didn’t love the book because I found the girls to be too bitchy, too backstabbing, too 2003. Not to say that Mean Girls didn’t exist back then, but really, we’re gonna go to a cave and drink whisky from a bottle like a group of drunken sorority girls?
The plot and the characters finally got going, though, when they all moved beyond hating each other (as much as that’s possible for these girls) and actually started doing something.
Man, it sure seems like I shouldn’t have liked this book, but I did. The plot moved along well and wasn’t as predictable as some seemed to think. What can I say? I enjoyed it. I might even keep the next two books in the series around just to pull out to show my wife I’m reading them when she starts to get crabby at me. It might work.
That, my friends, is the beginning for Gemma Doyle, a sixteen year old girl living in India during the Victorian era. Never once has anything so strange happened to her, but on the day she runs away from her mother she is attacked by a horrid vision. She runs to look for her mother; surely it is all a mistake. But when the after effects of the vision come to life, the truth is there; cold and hard. Is it her fault? She was so painfully frustrated being trapped in India when it was not meant to be her world. She said hateful words to her mother, and then it happened. Who is to blame?
No, this is not so much a mystery novel, although there are many mysteries within the trilogy. It's almost as if this novel cannot have a single genre. It's not just a paranormal romance, a supernatural, fantasy adventure, or even thriller filled with suspense. In it's essence its genre is life, with a touch of magic. Not only is the story magical, but so is the writing styles of Libba Bray. The story comes to life in the most vividly detailed writing I have ever read. When reading this book, you truly feel and know each character; you are each character at any given point of the novel. You're living vicariously through these characters, developing relationships, and discovering a new world. Fear will course through you, but so will sheer happiness. I once compared this book to my own Wonderland, in which I fall down a hole and escape the realities of my life. It is quite true. I've read this book many times often as an escape; a very beautiful escape.
After the death of Gemma's mother she is sent to Spence Academy for Girls. There she meets Ann Bradshaw, a sponsor student. She discovers what will be frenimies of sorts; Miss Felicity Worthington and Pippa Cross. Despite their differences, the group joins together, bound by untold secrets and a wish to be free of society's rules. Visions continue to attack Gemma, of which a mysterious Indian boy insists are dangerous and she must stop having them. Yet, how can she stop something she hasn't control? And when she does gain control; what does that mean? Soon, Gemma discovers a world of its own with her friends. It is a magical world in which the dead reside briefly, a limbo of sorts, and anything is possible. Such an exciting world without the constraints of society! What will they find there? And is it all as beautiful as it seems ; this world where leaves can turn into butterflies and beauty is but a wish away?
My friend Stephanie recommended this book, because I liked Twilight. There are no vampires here, no Edward's or Jacob's. In fact, it's quite different. Honestly, I think Twilight may have been an excuse to force this beautiful novel upon me J Which is quite okay, because I truly enjoyed it. Even more than my sexy Edward and my adorable Jacob. This story is much more mature and deeper than that of the Twilight Saga. There are more surprises, twists, and turns. I highly recommend the Gemma Doyle trilogy to anyone who likes to read. In fact, even if you hate reading, you should read this novel. It will change you; I promise!
"You mind is not a cage. It's a garden" --- Miss Moore
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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