It’s been a while since I last did a book review, hasn’t it? I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like to recently, so I haven’t had that much to review. However, I did write a review about A Great and Terrible Beauty a while ago so I thought I’d share it with you today.
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
It’s 1895 and, after the death of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped from the 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 finds he reception a chilly one. She’s not completely alone, though… she’s being followed by a mysterious young man, sent to warn her to close her mind against the visions.
It’s at Spence that Gemma’s power to attract the supernatural unfolds as she becomes entangled with the school’s most powerful girls and discovers her mother’s connection to a shadowy, timeless group called The Order. Her destiny awaits… if only Gemma can believe in it.
A Great and Terrible Beauty is a riveting tale of friendship, tragedy, mystery and magic. It focuses on teenager Gemma Doyle, who has lived in India all her life but longs to move to England. After her mother suddenly dies, Gemma is sent to a finishing school near London. Although Gemma initially really wanted to go to England, Spence Academy is the last place she wants to be. Not only is Gemma separated from her family, but the teachers at Spence are strict and the girls aren’t exactly welcoming either. However, Gemma soon befriends the quiet scholarship student Ann, the girl you’ll love-to-hate Felicity, and Pippa, who is about to be wed to the creepy Mr Bumble. Plagued by visions, Gemma is determined to find out what really happened to her mother and two former pupils at Spence.
Having not read the blurb before picking up A Great and Terrible Beauty, I was surprised when I started to read it. I thought the book would be similar to Pride and Prejudice but set in a different era; it was actually more like Northanger Abbey. I’ll admit that it was the cover that drew me to A Great and Terrible Beauty. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed it. The writing is captivating and will draw you into Victorian England. I felt truly sorry for some of the girls, especially Pippa and Gemma (despite the fact that some of her decisions were selfish and immature). Life was so different for women back in the late 19th century and marriage was more about money than love. I also liked the supernatural element, although I do think it could’ve been a bit more well-developed. Another good thing about A Great and Terrible Beauty is that even though there is a hint of romance, it isn’t one of the main aspects of the novel. I find that a lot of YA books focus too much on relationships, which can have a negative affect on the audience.
If you’re looking for a book that combines The Craft, Private and Rebecca, with a bit of Mean Girls thrown in, you’ve come to the right place. A Great and Terrible Beauty is a one-of-a-kind book.
Have you read A Great and Terrible Beauty? If so, what did you think of it?