A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle Trilogy #1)

( 1229 )

Overview

It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls—and ...

See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$9.99
BN.com price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (279) from $1.99   
  • New (23) from $1.99   
  • Used (256) from $1.99   
A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle Trilogy #1)

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.99
BN.com price
Marketplace
BN.com

All Available Formats & Editions

Note: Visit our Teens Store.

Overview

It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to?

After the suspicious death of her mother in 1895, sixteen-year-old Gemma returns to England, after many years in India, to attend a finishing school where she becomes aware of her magical powers and ability to see into the spirit world.

Read More Show Less
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty
    A Great and Terrible Beauty  

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
A British girl uncovers the mystery of her mother's death -- and discovers powers she never knew she possessed -- in this engrossing, imaginative Victorian-era novel by Libba Bray.

Two months after her mother's sudden and puzzling suicide, Gemma Doyle travels from India, where she was raised, to England for her new life at an all-girls preparatory school. At Spence Academy, Gemma feels dispirited by the stringent etiquette and her classmates' cruel pecking order, but she finds herself befriended by a group of girls with aspirations of being more than "proper ladies." Aside from school troubles, Gemma is also preoccupied with nightmarish visions, and following her discovery of a long-lost diary that describes "the Order," she learns that she has supernatural abilities that link her to the spirit world, her mother, and an evil force that wants to usurp Gemma's powers. And it's almost too late before Gemma realizes that she holds the key to her own and her friends' destinies.

Weaving Merchant/Ivory-type scenes with magical turns of events, Bray's tale is hard to put down. The author's intriguing look at 19th-century society, sexuality, and teen issues makes the book a compelling read that will appeal to both history and "chick lit" fans; yet with the deft inclusion of fantastical elements, Bray takes her novel to another level that's sure to grab an even wider audience. An unconventional book that entertains to the end and stays with you long after. Shana Taylor

VOYA
Despite having argued long and hard to be allowed to go to London, the Gemma Doyle that arrives on the doorstep of the city's fashionable Spence Academy is not the discontented teenager from Bombay who had her hopes set on the big city. Mourning the tragic death of her mother, she is unable tell anyone the truth. Saddened by her father's retreat into laudanum and her oh-so-proper brother's insistence that she be the prim Victorian miss that she is not, Gemma despairs of fitting in. Her role as an outsider seems assured when beautiful Pippa and sophisticated Felicity lump her with her roommate, Ann, a scholarship student. To top it off, one of the mysterious men present when her mother died seems to be following her. Her bleak prospects change when she is led to the diary of Mary Dowd, a former Spence girl who penetrated the secrets of The Realm that now link Gemma, her mother, Felicity, Ann, and Pippa with a life and death struggle. This classic boarding school drama with gothic tones deals with real issues—a woman's place, the question of self-determinism, the impact on young lives of a lack of parental love and attention—within an excitingly supernatural framework. Plot, setting, and characterization are all strong. Questions of life, love, maturity, responsibility, and the harrowing nature of choices are seamlessly worked into a compulsively readable story, open ended enough to hint at the possibility of a sequel. Soundly researched and credible, this exhilarating and thought-provoking read is for the junior high level up, especially for girls who have enjoyed Mary Hoffman's Stravaganza series and are ready for something a bit more challenging and mature. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P SA/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2004, Delacorte, 416p., and PLB Ages 15 to Adult.
—Ann Welton
KLIATT
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, January 2004: The cover is compelling: a photograph of the back of a young woman dressed in old-fashioned corsets. It is historical fiction, perhaps better described as Gothic fiction. The time is 1895; the action begins in India, then continues in England at a select school for girls. The narrator is Gemma, a 16-year-old who abruptly must leave India with her opium-addicted father after the murder of her mother. This murder begins the story, and it is shrouded in strange occurrences that hint of the occult. When Gemma is delivered to the school and meets her roommate and the other girls in her class, the story takes on some of the familiar themes of school stories: new girl horrors, cliques of friends, pressure to conform, sneaking about after hours, secret societies. Gemma and a small group of girls capitalize on Gemma's strange gifts to connect them to a spirit world, and for Gemma the most precious connection is with her dead mother. It turns out the mother once was a student at this school, that strange deaths happened at the school while she was there, and that the gift Gemma has seems to have come to her from her mother. The plight of young women at that time is most acutely felt in one friend of Gemma's, Pippa, a beautiful girl whose greedy parents are trying to marry her off to the richest man they can find, all the while hiding her epilepsy. There is much that is appealing in this story. It reads like an adult novel, except that the characters are teenagers; the character development and vocabulary are rich and meaty. A mysterious young man, present at the death of Gemma's mother in India, and now close by the school where Gemma isenrolled in England, provides added intrigue. Bray is totally successful in placing her readers in the confinement of Victorian England and also in the freedom of the strange spirit world Gemma finds. (An ALA Best Book for YAs.) KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Random House, Delacorte, 403p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
Library Journal
Gr 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 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Had Gemma but known what occult horrors would await her, would she still have wanted to leave India? Sixteen-year-old Gemma is sent to her long-desired London when her mother commits suicide. In a terrifying vision, she sees her mother attacked by a vile supernatural force. Would revelation of her own strange mental powers cause more scandal than her mother's outre death? A sexy but suspicious young man has followed Gemma from India, and cryptically warns her to muffle her visions. Such constraint seems the goal of Gemma's proper finishing school as well. With corsets, deportment lessons, and rules, Spence Academy shapes prim young ladies. But the seemingly proper girls of Spence reveal various sexualities, passions, and hopes that strain the seams of their strict Victorian education. Mysterious continued visions, dark family secrets, and a long-lost diary thrust Gemma and her classmates back into the horrors that followed her from India. A Gothic touched by modern conceptions of adolescence, shivery with both passion and terror. Fiction. YA
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385732314
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 3/22/2005
  • Series: Gemma Doyle Trilogy , #1
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 62,437
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Libba Bray

Libba Bray is the author of the New York Times bestselling Gemma Doyle trilogy, comprised of A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing. She is also the author of Beauty Queens and Going Bovine, which won the Michael L. Printz Award. Libba lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, son, and two cats. Visit her at libbabray.com.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

June 21, 1895

Bombay, India

"Please tell me that's not going to be part of my birthday dinner this evening."

I am staring into the hissing face of a cobra. A surpris-ingly pink tongue slithers in and out of a cruel mouth while an Indian man whose eyes are the blue of blindness inclines his head toward my mother and explains in Hindi that cobras make very good eating.

My mother reaches out a white-gloved finger to stroke the snake's back. "What do you think, Gemma? Now that you're sixteen, will you be dining on cobra?"

The slithery thing makes me shudder. "I think not, thank you."

The old, blind Indian man smiles toothlessly and brings the cobra closer. It's enough to send me reeling back where I bump into a wooden stand filled with little statues of Indian deities. One of the statues, a woman who is all arms with a face bent on terror, falls to the ground. Kali, the destroyer. Lately, Mother has accused me of keeping her as my unofficial patron saint. Lately, Mother and I haven't been getting on very well. She claims it's because I've reached an impossible age. I state emphatically to anyone who will listen that it's all because she refuses to take me to London.

"I hear in London, you don't have to defang your meals first," I say. We're moving past the cobra man and into the throng of people crowding every inch of Bombay's frenzied marketplace. Mother doesn't answer but waves away an organ-grinder and his monkey. It's unbearably hot. Beneath my cotton dress and crinolines, sweat streaks down my body. The flies-my most ardent admirers-dart about my face. I swat at one of the little winged beasts, but it escapes and I can almost swear I hear it mocking me. My misery is reaching epidemic proportions.

Overhead, the clouds are thick and dark, giving warning that this is monsoon season, when floods of rain could fall from the sky in a matter of minutes. In the dusty bazaar the turbaned men chatter and squawk and bargain, lifting brightly colored silks toward us with brown, sunbaked hands. Everywhere there are carts lined with straw baskets offering every sort of ware and edible-thin, coppery vases; wooden boxes carved into intricate flower designs; and mangos ripening in the heat.

"How much farther to Mrs. Talbot's new house? Couldn't we please take a carriage?" I ask with what I hope is a noticeable annoyance.

"It's a nice day for a walk. And I'll thank you to keep a civil tone."

My annoyance has indeed been noted.

Sarita, our long-suffering housekeeper, offers pomegranates in her leathery hand. "Memsahib, these are very nice. Perhaps we will take them to your father, yes?"

If I were a good daughter, I'd bring some to my father, watch his blue eyes twinkle as he slices open the rich, red fruit, then eats the tiny seeds with a silver spoon just like a proper British gentleman.

"He'll only stain his white suit," I grumble. My mother starts to say something to me, thinks better of it, sighs-as usual. We used to go everywhere together, my mother and I-visiting ancient temples, exploring local customs, watching Hindu festivals, staying up late to see the streets bloom with candlelight. Now, she barely takes me on social calls. It's as if I'm a leper without a colony.

"He will stain his suit. He always does," I mumble in my defense, though no one is paying me a bit of attention except for the organ-grinder and his monkey. They're following my every step, hoping to amuse me for money. The high lace collar of my dress is soaked with perspiration. I long for the cool, lush green of England, which I've only read about in my grandmother's letters. Letters filled with gossip about tea dances and balls and who has scandalized whom half a world away, while I am stranded in boring, dusty India watching an organ-grinder's monkey do a juggling trick with dates, the same trick he's been performing for a year.

"Look at the monkey, memsahib. How adorable he is!" Sarita says this as if I were still three and clinging to the bottoms of her sari skirts. No one seems to understand that I am fully sixteen and want, no, need to be in London, where I can be close to the museums and the balls and men who are older than six and younger than sixty.

"Sarita, that monkey is a trained thief who will be begging for your wages in a moment," I say with a sigh. As if on cue, the furry urchin scrambles up and sits on my shoulder with his palm outstretched. "How would you like to end up in a birthday stew?" I tell him through clenched teeth. The monkey hisses. Mother grimaces at my ill manners and drops a coin in its owner's cup. The monkey grins triumphantly and leaps across my head before running away.

A vendor holds out a carved mask with snarling teeth and elephant ears. Without a word, Mother places it over her face. "Find me if you can," she says. It's a game she's played with me since I could walk-a bit of hide-and-seek meant to make me smile. A child's game.

"I see only my mother," I say, bored. "Same teeth. Same ears."

Mother gives the mask back to the vendor. I've hit her vanity, her weak point.

"And I see that turning sixteen is not very becoming to

my daughter," she says.

"Yes, I am sixteen. Sixteen. An age at which most decent girls have been sent for schooling in London." I give the word decent an extra push, hoping to appeal to some maternal sense of shame and propriety.

"This looks a bit on the green side, I think." She's peering intently at a mango. Her fruit inspection is all-consuming.

"No one tried to keep Tom imprisoned in Bombay," I say, invoking my brother's name as a last resort. "He's had four whole years there! And now he's starting at university."

"It's different for men."

"It's not fair. I'll never have a season. I'll end up a spinster with hundreds of cats who all drink milk from china bowls." I'm whining. It's unattractive, but I find I'm powerless to stop.

"I see," Mother says, finally. "Would you like to be paraded around the ballrooms of London society like some prize horse there to have its breeding capabilities evaluated? Would you still think London was so charming when you were the subject of cruel gossip for the slightest infraction of the rules? London's not as idyllic as your grandmother's letters make it out to be."

"I wouldn't know. I've never seen it."

"Gemma . . ." Mother's tone is all warning even as her smile is constant for the Indians. Mustn't let them think we British ladies are so petty as to indulge in arguments on the streets. We only discuss the weather, and when the weather is bad, we pretend not to notice.

Sarita chuckles nervously. "How is it that memsahib is now a young lady? It seems only yesterday you were in the nursery. Oh, look, dates! Your favorite." She breaks into a gap-toothed smile that makes every deeply etched wrinkle in her face come alive. It's hot and I suddenly want to scream, to run away from everything and everyone I've ever known.

"Those dates are probably rotting on the inside. Just like India."

"Gemma, that will be quite enough." Mother fixes me with her glass-green eyes. Penetrating and wise, people call them. I have the same large, upturned green eyes. The Indians say they are unsettling, disturbing. Like being watched by a ghost. Sarita smiles down at her feet, keeps her hands busy adjusting her brown sari. I feel a tinge of guilt for saying such a nasty thing about her home. Our home, though I don't really feel at home anywhere these days.

"Memsahib, you do not want to go to London. It is gray and cold and there is no ghee for bread. You wouldn't like it."

A train screams into the depot down near the glittering bay. Bombay. Good bay, it means, though I can't think of anything good about it right now. A dark plume of smoke from the train stretches up, touching the heavy clouds. Mother watches it rise.

"Yes, cold and gray." She places a hand on her throat, fingers the necklace hanging there, a small silver medallion of an all-seeing eye atop a crescent moon. A gift from a villager, Mother said. Her good-luck charm. I've never seen her without it.

Sarita puts a hand on Mother's arm. "Time to go, memsahib."

Mother pulls her gaze away from the train, drops her hand from her necklace. "Yes. Come. We'll have a lovely time at Mrs. Talbot's. I'm sure she'll have lovely cakes just for your birthday-"

A man in a white turban and thick black traveling cloak stumbles into her from behind, bumping her hard.

"A thousand pardons, honorable lady." He smiles, offers a deep bow to excuse his rudeness. When he does, he reveals a young man behind him wearing the same sort of strange cloak. For a moment, the young man and I lock eyes. He isn't much older than I am, probably seventeen if a day, with brown skin, a full mouth, and the longest eyelashes I have ever seen. I know I'm not supposed to find Indian men attractive, but I don't see many young men and I find I'm blushing in spite of myself. He breaks our gaze and cranes his neck to see over the hordes.

"You should be more careful," Sarita barks at the older man, threatening him with a blow from her arm. "You better not be a thief or you will be punished."

"No, no, memsahib, only I am terribly clumsy." He drops his smile and with it the cheerful simpleton routine. He whispers low to my mother in perfectly accented English. "Circe is near."

It makes no sense to me, just the ramblings of a very clever thief said to distract us. I start to say as much to my mother but the look of sheer panic on her face stops me cold. Her eyes are wild as she whips around and scans the crowded streets like she's looking for a lost child.

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Chapter One

June 21, 1895

Bombay, India



"Please tell me that's not going to be part of my birthday dinner this
evening."

I am staring into the hissing face of a cobra. A surpris-ingly pink tongue slithers in and out of a cruel mouth while an Indian man whose eyes are the blue of blindness inclines his head toward my mother and explains in Hindi that cobras make very good eating.

My mother reaches out a white-gloved finger to stroke the snake's back. "What do you think, Gemma? Now that you're sixteen, will you be dining on cobra?"

The slithery thing makes me shudder. "I think not, thank you."

The old, blind Indian man smiles toothlessly and brings the cobra closer. It's enough to send me reeling back where I bump into a wooden stand filled with little statues of Indian deities. One of the statues, a woman who is all arms with a face bent on terror, falls to the ground. Kali, the destroyer. Lately, Mother has accused me of keeping her as my unofficial patron saint. Lately, Mother and I haven't been getting on very well. She claims it's because I've reached an impossible age. I state emphatically to anyone who will listen that it's all because she refuses to take me to London.

"I hear in London, you don't have to defang your meals first," I say. We're moving past the cobra man and into the throng of people crowding every inch of Bombay's frenzied marketplace. Mother doesn't answer but waves away an organ-grinder and his monkey. It's unbearably hot. Beneath my cotton dress and crinolines, sweat streaks down my body. The flies-my most ardent admirers-dart about my face. I swat at one of the little winged beasts, but itescapes and I can almost swear I hear it mocking me. My misery is reaching epidemic proportions.

Overhead, the clouds are thick and dark, giving warning that this is monsoon season, when floods of rain could fall from the sky in a matter of minutes. In the dusty bazaar the turbaned men chatter and squawk and bargain, lifting brightly colored silks toward us with brown, sunbaked hands. Everywhere there are carts lined with straw baskets offering every sort of ware and edible-thin, coppery vases; wooden boxes carved into intricate flower designs; and mangos ripening in the heat.

"How much farther to Mrs. Talbot's new house? Couldn't we please take a carriage?" I ask with what I hope is a noticeable annoyance.

"It's a nice day for a walk. And I'll thank you to keep a civil tone."

My annoyance has indeed been noted.

Sarita, our long-suffering housekeeper, offers pomegranates in her leathery hand. "Memsahib, these are very nice. Perhaps we will take them to your father, yes?"

If I were a good daughter, I'd bring some to my father, watch his blue eyes twinkle as he slices open the rich, red fruit, then eats the tiny seeds with a silver spoon just like a proper British gentleman.

"He'll only stain his white suit," I grumble. My mother starts to say something to me, thinks better of it, sighs-as usual. We used to go everywhere together, my mother and I-visiting ancient temples, exploring local customs, watching Hindu festivals, staying up late to see the streets bloom with candlelight. Now, she barely takes me on social calls. It's as if I'm a leper without a colony.

"He will stain his suit. He always does," I mumble in my defense, though no one is paying me a bit of attention except for the organ-grinder and his monkey. They're following my every step, hoping to amuse me for money. The high lace collar of my dress is soaked with perspiration. I long for the cool, lush green of England, which I've only read about in my grandmother's letters. Letters filled with gossip about tea dances and balls and who has scandalized whom half a world away, while I am stranded in boring, dusty India watching an organ-grinder's monkey do a juggling trick with dates, the same trick he's been performing for a year.

"Look at the monkey, memsahib. How adorable he is!" Sarita says this as if I were still three and clinging to the bottoms of her sari skirts. No one seems to understand that I am fully sixteen and want, no, need to be in London, where I can be close to the museums and the balls and men who are older than six and younger than sixty.

"Sarita, that monkey is a trained thief who will be begging for your wages in a moment," I say with a sigh. As if on cue, the furry urchin scrambles up and sits on my shoulder with his palm outstretched. "How would you like to end up in a birthday stew?" I tell him through clenched teeth. The monkey hisses. Mother grimaces at my ill manners and drops a coin in its owner's cup. The monkey grins triumphantly and leaps across my head before running away.

A vendor holds out a carved mask with snarling teeth and elephant ears. Without a word, Mother places it over her face. "Find me if you can," she says. It's a game she's played with me since I could walk-a bit of hide-and-seek meant to make me smile. A child's game.

"I see only my mother," I say, bored. "Same teeth. Same ears."

Mother gives the mask back to the vendor. I've hit her vanity, her weak point.

"And I see that turning sixteen is not very becoming to

my daughter," she says.

"Yes, I am sixteen. Sixteen. An age at which most decent girls have been sent for schooling in London." I give the word decent an extra push, hoping to appeal to some maternal sense of shame and propriety.

"This looks a bit on the green side, I think." She's peering intently at a mango. Her fruit inspection is all-consuming.

"No one tried to keep Tom imprisoned in Bombay," I say, invoking my brother's name as a last resort. "He's had four whole years there! And now he's starting at university."

"It's different for men."

"It's not fair. I'll never have a season. I'll end up a spinster with hundreds of cats who all drink milk from china bowls." I'm whining. It's unattractive, but I find I'm powerless to stop.

"I see," Mother says, finally. "Would you like to be paraded around the ballrooms of London society like some prize horse there to have its breeding capabilities evaluated? Would you still think London was so charming when you were the subject of cruel gossip for the slightest infraction of the rules? London's not as idyllic as your grandmother's letters make it out to be."

"I wouldn't know. I've never seen it."

"Gemma . . ." Mother's tone is all warning even as her smile is constant for the Indians. Mustn't let them think we British ladies are so petty as to indulge in arguments on the streets. We only discuss the weather, and when the weather is bad, we pretend not to notice.

Sarita chuckles nervously. "How is it that memsahib is now a young lady? It seems only yesterday you were in the nursery. Oh, look, dates! Your favorite." She breaks into a gap-toothed smile that makes every deeply etched wrinkle in her face come alive. It's hot and I suddenly want to scream, to run away from everything and everyone I've ever known.

"Those dates are probably rotting on the inside. Just like India."

"Gemma, that will be quite enough." Mother fixes me with her glass-green eyes. Penetrating and wise, people call them. I have the same large, upturned green eyes. The Indians say they are unsettling, disturbing. Like being watched by a ghost. Sarita smiles down at her feet, keeps her hands busy adjusting her brown sari. I feel a tinge of guilt for saying such a nasty thing about her home. Our home, though I don't really feel at home anywhere these days.

"Memsahib, you do not want to go to London. It is gray and cold and there is no ghee for bread. You wouldn't like it."

A train screams into the depot down near the glittering bay. Bombay. Good bay, it means, though I can't think of anything good about it right now. A dark plume of smoke from the train stretches up, touching the heavy clouds. Mother watches it rise.

"Yes, cold and gray." She places a hand on her throat, fingers the necklace hanging there, a small silver medallion of an all-seeing eye atop a crescent moon. A gift from a villager, Mother said. Her good-luck charm. I've never seen her without it.

Sarita puts a hand on Mother's arm. "Time to go, memsahib."

Mother pulls her gaze away from the train, drops her hand from her necklace. "Yes. Come. We'll have a lovely time at Mrs. Talbot's. I'm sure she'll have lovely cakes just for your birthday-"

A man in a white turban and thick black traveling cloak stumbles into her from behind, bumping her hard.

"A thousand pardons, honorable lady." He smiles, offers a deep bow to excuse his rudeness. When he does, he reveals a young man behind him wearing the same sort of strange cloak. For a moment, the young man and I lock eyes. He isn't much older than I am, probably seventeen if a day, with brown skin, a full mouth, and the longest eyelashes I have ever seen. I know I'm not supposed to find Indian men attractive, but I don't see many young men and I find I'm blushing in spite of myself. He breaks our gaze and cranes his neck to see over the hordes.

"You should be more careful," Sarita barks at the older man, threatening him with a blow from her arm. "You better not be a thief or you will be punished."

"No, no, memsahib, only I am terribly clumsy." He drops his smile and with it the cheerful simpleton routine. He whispers low to my mother in perfectly accented English. "Circe is near."

It makes no sense to me, just the ramblings of a very clever thief said to distract us. I start to say as much to my mother but the look of sheer panic on her face stops me cold. Her eyes are wild as she whips around and scans the crowded streets like she's looking for a lost child.


From the Hardcover edition.

Copyright© 2004 by Libba Bray
Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. Despite visions and a special destiny, Gemma is not so unlike the other girls at Spence in her feelings of alienation and her yearning for acceptance. Gemma’s need to fit into her new school leads to her being locked in the chapel in the middle of the night. Would you have made the same choice? Have you ever done something you didn’t want to do, to get someone to like you? Have you ever taken advantage of someone who wanted you to like him or her?

2. The Realms are a place where anything seems possible. Each of the four girls wants one thing above all else: Felicity desires power, Pippa seeks love, Ann wants beauty, and Gemma craves self-knowledge. Does any of the characters achieve her goal by the end of the story? Why or why not? What would you want?

3. Gemma says of Felicity, “I don’t yet know what power feels like. But this is surely what it looks like, and I think I’m beginning to understand why those ancient women had to hide in caves. Why our parents and teachers and suitors want us to behave properly and predictably. It’s not that they want to protect us; it’s that they fear us” p. 207. What kind of power is Gemma talking about? What is it that she thinks the parents and teachers and suitors fear?

4. Women. Power. These two words conjure many images and emotions, and they appear throughout A Great and Terrible Beauty. What connections does Libba Bray draw between the two words? How does she characterize the Victorians’ view of powerful women? How do you think powerful women are viewed today?

5. Bray paints the Victorian age as a time when appearances must be kept up at all times. Appearances matter more than reality, and anything interesting is kept a secret. For example, Gemma’s family hides the nature of Virginia Doyle’s death to avoid scandal. Likewise, in the Realms, appearances are deceiving. Gemma, Ann, Pippa, and Felicity believe their dreams are coming true–but is that really the case? What do you think the author meant by drawing a parallel between reality and paradise? Is it ever really possible to escape or change reality?

6. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly said, “Bray brilliantly depicts a caste system, in which girls are taught to abandon individuality in favor of a man’s wishes, as a deeper and darker horror than most things that go bump in the night.” Do you think Gemma has achieved a certain freedom by the end of the novel? Are her supernatural powers responsible for bringing about this freedom? Do you think she would have been such a rebel if it hadn’t been for her magic?

7. In Diary of an Author on AGreatandTerribleBeauty.com, Libba Bray says, “Why do we do this to our girls? Why do we spend a lifetime whittling them down into bite-sized nuggets, something easily digested that will upset no stomach? Why can’t we allow them to ask for what they want?” Does the novel answer that question? If so, how? Do you believe that conditions for women have improved over the past hundred years?

8. The girls of Spence have a great deal of adult supervision, but there is a glaring absence of parental love. What role does this absence play in Gemma’s and her friends’ lives and the choices they make? Do you think Pippa would have made a different choice had her parents behaved differently? How would Gemma’s and Felicity’s lives be changed if their fathers were available–in Gemma’s case mentally, and in Felicity’s case physically? What about Ann?

9. It’s a dream, only a dream,” Gemma thinks of her sexually charged encounter with Kartik p. 219. Why do you think Gemma stops the fantasy when she does? Why do you think the author chose to make this scene a dream rather than a reality? Do you believe this makes Gemma’s experience any less “real” to her?

10. The Realms’ answer to Gemma’s desire for self-knowledge is Virginia Doyle. Why do you think Gemma must understand her mother in order to understand herself? Gemma concludes, “I’m going to have to let her go to accept the mother I’m only just discovering” p. 394. How are the two mothers Gemma refers to different? Why does Gemma have to forgive her mother first if she is to understand her?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 1229 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(851)

4 Star

(255)

3 Star

(85)

2 Star

(22)

1 Star

(16)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1231 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 23, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Truly original

    Really, I don't say this very often (actually, like once in a blue moon), but this book s truly a masterpiece. Completely original, and haunts you long after the last pages. Excellent for avid readers beyond their age, and even more so for those hopeless romantics and fantasy-meets-reality lovers.

    17 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A Great and Terrible Beauty

    This book was very remarkable from beginning to end. It is good for ages 12-college age. It is about a girl with interesting visions. She is haunted by them and in the beginning, and her mother is killed, her death somehow related to them. This leaves the girl, Gemma, with many questions. Gemma is sent to a finishing school where she meets new friends. Her and her friends recreate a secret order... This book will keep your heart pumping and you won't be able to put it down (I know because I stayed in my bedroom all day finishing it. I loved this book and really hope you read it. I know you will enjoy it!
    -Female, age 13

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent for Everyone

    I've seen this series on several friends' bookshelves and finally got around to reading it myself. I wasn't disappointed; in fact, I was pleasantly surprised with this series. It has believable plot lines and ties throughout the trilogy. The characters and their developments are well-paced, believable, and appropriate for the series. The friendships are inspiring (and show the failings real life relationships can have.) Suggested for older teenagers. Honestly, a great read.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2005

    Terrible

    It would have been a good book if the author didn't feel the need to put in same sex implications. I don't see why the author felt the need to add this in. I would not recommend reading this.

    5 out of 49 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Great and Terrible Beauty Review

    WOW! Where do I begin? The writing style is...different. It's written mostly in diary type style where it's all Gemma's point of view including the narration. At first this was really weird for me to read this type of style so I was really slow at reading it, but as the novel progresses her writing style changes. Did anyone notice that? Or was that just me? I mean read the first page and then read a page that's near the end and I think you can notice it. Anyways, theirs a reason this book is a bestseller, it's because it's a really good story and it's interesting. The writing is unique and different which sets it apart from other books. It's wonderfully described and almost instantly you can imagine the characters and the places and you really feel as if your the characters and this is happening to you. Their is many quotes in the book which I adore to death and will probably almost always treasure. Such as: "In every end, there is also a beginning.", "You mind is not a cage. It's a garden. And it requires cultivating."
    It's a excellent book I'm not going to lie, it can be long in parts and be slow and their wasn't enough of the mysterious young man as I would of like their to be. Also the biography on the back of the book only got my attention because of the supernatural part, if it hadn't had said that then I probably wouldn't have read it. I think even though I enjoyed this book, and it's the start of the trilogy, I will not read the sequel of it for a while. I think these book need to be taken in small portion, I don't think I could real all three of them in a week or two weeks to be honest. Also while I was reading this book I couldn't stop thinking about another book that is kind of similar to it so that really put a damper on me reading this. I have no negative things to say about this book it's simply amazing. Yes it can be slow at times, but that's pretty much it. I enjoyed it overall and hope people who haven't read this will. Or who are thinking of reading this will. My favorite character was Gemma because me and her are both very similar.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Great NOT TERRIBLE Book

    I must say, I missed a day last summer sitting on my floor, reading. I never got up to see the weather, and I just read.
    AGATB, the first of the Gemma Doyle series, enraptures from the first chapter. All the characters could be connected back to me, and it actually was a method of self discovery for me. Gemma's struggles seemed real and the story, though obviously fiction, seemed quite possible. I enjoyed reading AGATB because it made me think, and because every character had a secret. No one was innocent in this novel like in others, and I fould it refreshing. I would recommend this book to a random stranger on the street, I think it's that amazing.
    Oh, and books rarely make me cry. Every time I reread this one, I cry, because the characters grow on you.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Love this series

    Love Love Love the Libba Bray Novels! I was depressed after finishing the Harry Potters and Twlights and needed a good pick me up and she rescued me. Thank you for being original and visionary.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Absoloutly Wonderful!

    I am curently reading the second book (Rebel Angles) and so far I love the books. The first was a little bit slow in the begining, although absoloutly worth continuing to read after the first few chapters. The books are not the most well known, I only recently heard about them, but they are absoloutly wonderful. Much better then the Twilight books or other books targeted for similar types of readers.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2012

    Amazing

    This is one of my favorite books of all time! It's one of those books you will remember long after you read them.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2012

    I absolutely love the sarcasm in it. It is very original, and th

    I absolutely love the sarcasm in it. It is very original, and the sex parts add color. It is not as if anything bad happens by reading those parts.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2011

    Great book

    I loved the book, but sometimes found myself wishing Emma would grow up and see the truth that was literatlly right in front of her eyes. This is a must read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 27, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A good alternative to the Vampire books out there

    I really enjoyed reading A Great and Terrible Beauty. It took me a little while to get into the characters and the story but eventually I was sucked right in and enjoyed the story. It is not a romatical as the Twilight Series but it is a nice fantasy tail that is non-Vampire. And in this day and age that is hard to come by.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Unexpectedly Wonderful

    I had seen this book on the shelves of bookstores and each time i was caught by the cover. Unfortunately, that's all that caught me. the summary on the back didnt interest me enough to buy it. One day someone gave it to a friend of mine and since she didnt want to read it, and i had nothing else to read, i picked it up. Boy was i surprised! The book was incredible and definitely not what i expected. I finished it in a day or two and immediately drove the BN to pick up the second, which i read just as quickly. I waited in anticipation for the 3rd book, which was amazing too! I was so connected with the characters. i recommended it to a friend who had the same problem i had, it didnt interest her. i finally forced her to read it and she thought it was just as amazing as i did. A must read!!!!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Good gothic fun that left me thinking

    To call A Great and Terrible Beauty a "vividly drawn portait of the Victorian age" is partially true--as far as I know, many of the social and day-to-day elements are correct. Libba Bray did her research, and I appreciate her acknowledgment of sources she found helpful in the Acknowledgments page before the beginning of the story. On the other hand, the characters do not speak in a Victorian fashion. The copy of the book I read includes an interview with Bray. One of the questions reads, "Your story is rich in Victorian period detail, yet the characters feel real and immediate, as if they were alive today. How were you able to get inside the heads of girls who lived over a hundred years ago?"

    Bray answers, "Uh, well....I cheated." She then goes on to describe how she mixed elements to create the atmosphere she wanted as well as a "modernity of feeling". The girls feel as if they are alive today partly because their speech is modern, and partly because, as Libba Bray says, "girls are girls, feelings are always feelings, whether it's 1895 or 2005." Sometimes I forget that people are people, even if they are historical, and that their feelings were very much like mine. I appreciate Bray's reminder of this.

    So, moving on, I quickly got over the modern speech within a historical setting dilemma because this book is great. Gemma has an intelligent sense of humor (there are many opportunities to laugh to yourself, or with others (however you like to laugh) while reading this book), and she is a strong character as well. Her first person, present tense narration was easy to connect to.

    The plot is full of Gothic elements--a closed East Wing, gypsies, and a mysterious diary. It's good fun. The mysteries within the story are also intriguing. The real surprise, though, is how Bray manages to make the Victorian prospects of the girls scarier than the darker supernatural elements of the story. If you do read this book--which you should--I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy with a Readers Circle section at the end. This is a book that leaves one with much to think about, and the discussion questions coupled with the Q&A section with Libba Bray are interesting.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Loved it!

    A Great and Teribble Beauty is one of the best books i have ever read. It keeps you wanting more and more at the end of the book. I ofton found myself up and reading at three in the morning just to see what would happen next. I would recommend this book to anybody who enjoys exitement.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    LOVED IT

    By looking at it I had know idea.
    But now i'm so happy i've read this series!
    Its amazing in every way
    i love this book.
    I Love Kartik
    I hate Circe.
    this book is one of a kind.
    i hundred percent recommend it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    This book is unforgettable!

    I picked this book up in the library on Friday at noon and was done by 2 am Sunday, i could not put the book down. I must admit that I got angry at the book and almost threw it when Gemma made a choice I knew would end with a bad result but i picked it back up and started reading within seconds of putting it down. The book leaves you on the edge of your seat flipping page after page to see what will come next. I have recommended it to my best friends and recommended it to anyone!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Okay.

    The first part of this book was a little bit boring and slow, and confusing and unclear at times. I didn't really get into it at all until the last few chapters, when it actually starts to get interesting. I might get the next book in the series if I have nothing better to read, but I doubt that I'll be able to get through it unless it's more interesting than this one, for the most part.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Amazing

    I truly fell in love with this book. I love the time era it is placed in. I love the way they talk and acted then. The main character also reminds me of my best friend witch coincidentally is the one who let me know about this book. The bonds made and broke and lessons learned reading this book are so great. A great book for rainy day reading or to have a discussion about it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    "can't put it down" kind of book

    a great a terrible beauty was really great. my friends recomended it to me and we loved discussing it and the characters were unique and different than characters u would read in other books. the second book was my favorite because it all comes together like a huge mystery puzzle that u couldnt wait to see the end product. at some times its a little cheezy but stll unpredictable

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1231 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)