Summary and book reviews of A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty

by Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty
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  • First Published:
    Dec 2003, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2005, 432 pages

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Book Summary

In this debut gothic novel mysterious visions, dark family secrets and a long-lost diary thrust Gemma and her classmates back into the horrors that followed her from India. (Ages 12+)

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?

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 surprisingly 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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  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? ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

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)

Booklist - Stephanie Zvirin

Gr. 8-12. The Realms and the mystery surrounding the diary are less well handled, yet there's no doubt the mystical elements, along with a touch of forbidden romance, will draw a large, enthusiastic audience, who will come away wanting more about stubborn, willful Gemma and the strange world whose doors she can open at will.

Publishers Weekly

While aimed at female readers, it will be just as delectable to boys brave enough to be seen carrying a book sporting a corset-clad girl on the cover. The pace is swift, the finale gripping. A delicious, elegant gothic. Ages 12-up.

Reader Reviews

SIVER

Awesome
I just learned English and this book makes the language sound so much fun. I feel like I am gemma doyle.

em

Fantastic series
This trilogy is my absolute favourite. I would recommend it for anyone aged 13 and up. These books are well-written, intriguing, captivating and suspenseful. They will leave you wanting more. Bray meticulously describes both setting and character, as...   Read More

M

Opinion
I think that this book series is wonderful and intriguing. I LOVE it!! Even though I have read the entire trilogy and know how the story ends I can always re-read the books. All of the characters were so enchanting and leaped off the pages. They ...   Read More

stasa

AMAZING!!!!!!
This was was amazing!! I personally am not a big fan of fiction, but I did not want to put this book down. There were many things that I was not expecting! This book is definitely a page turner. And it leaves you wanting more.

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