Bray, Libba. A Great and Terrible Beauty. Book Review.

A Great and Terrible Beauty (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy)

The setting and characters are the real stars of this novel. The plot is interesting but it was the world of these Victorian girls that kept me turning the pages.

It begins in June 1895 in Bombay, India. Gemma, the heroine of the story is turning 16 and cannot understand why her parents will not take her to London, England. In Victorian culture, women have a short period of time in which to catch a man who will support them for the rest of their lives. Emma wants to join English society and participate in balls, shopping, and dining out. While she does get her wish to go to England, it is through disastrous events that change her life forever.

The dynamics of an English boarding school and the division between the social classes is fascinating. These girls live a life most modern teenagers could never imagine filled with restrictions and expectations of their every move and word. Yet, the jealousies and cruelties are no different than those practiced in high school today.

The plot centers around a magical realm and powers that draw Gemma and her friends into dark intrigue. The ending was not as satisfying as I had hoped it would be. The revelation of Gemma’s mother’s past destroyed my compassion for her. Pippa’s decision, while understandable, seemed childish and suicidal. The threat from Kartik’s people seemed to go nowhere and was unresolved while the romance between him and Gemma was disappointing.

Libba’s writing style is vivid and enjoyable. This is her first book and I would definitely read more of her work.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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