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A Great and Terrible Beauty | [Libba Bray]

A Great and Terrible Beauty

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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?

©2003 Libba Bray; (P)2004 Random House, Inc. Listening Library, an imprint of the Random House Audio Publishing Group

What the Critics Say

"A delicious, elegant gothic." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (319 )
5 star
 (118)
4 star
 (91)
3 star
 (68)
2 star
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1 star
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Overall
3.8 (124 )
5 star
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3 star
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1 star
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Story
4.1 (125 )
5 star
 (48)
4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Beverly Horn Lake, MS, USA 02-04-06
    Beverly Horn Lake, MS, USA 02-04-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
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    7
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    "More Details, please!"

    Libba Bray gives us a strong, determined heroine in this gothic fantasy/mystery. Gemma seldom shrinks from bullies, a challenge, or her own desires, and this is refreshing, especially so in a young woman in an 1895 setting. Quite a nice departure from most angst-ridden teens. Not all of Gemma's friends are likeable, but she does the best with what she has.

    What I found lacking was a sense of place and flow. Characters drive this novel, but the settings deserved more detail, and action often takes leaps that leave gaps in the imagination, making it hard to follow, especially towards the end. Younger readers may appreciate the fast flow but it can be frustrating to an adult.

    Josephine Bailey as narrator sparkles. If only all readers were so talented! Her voices are singular and easy to recognize, despite Felicity's voice slipping into a Gilligan's Island Mrs. Howell in the beginning. Overall she's a joy to listen to.

    Ms. Bray's portrayal of Victorian society and its expectations on girls is both honest and rebellious and strikes a modern chord that in too many instances still plays today. This novel does much to underline this without detracting from the story whatsoever, showing the personal implications for each girl rather than preaching.

    Four stars for being an easy listen, good historical depiction, strong characters, and appropriate for the intended audience.



    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nicki Tracy, CA, USA 11-18-04
    Nicki Tracy, CA, USA 11-18-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
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    5
    4
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    "A Great Narrator, an Acceptable Book"

    A somewhat predictable gothic/fantasy book. Gemma receives her wish to leave India for England when her mother is mysteriously killed on Gemma's 16th birthday. Gemma is shipped off to boarding school in England. There she must gain the acceptance of her schoolmates, solve the mystery of mother's death, and learn to deal with her "powers". An interesting look into social mores of the Victorian era.

    Certainly not the best written book I have listened to, but the narrator was what made this such an enjoyable listen. She did a delightful job of capturing the personality of the characters, and managed to make each sound distinctly different. She kept my attention more than the story line did!

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer austin, TX, United States 02-20-09
    Jennifer austin, TX, United States 02-20-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    257
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    11
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    Overall
    "A Great and Wonderful Book"

    Libba Bray's first in the Jemma Doyle series, A Great and Terrible Beauty is a journey well worth taking. I would never recommend this book to a guy, but for the rest of us, we've all felt like Jemma sometimes. That's the beauty of the book- yes, it's set in Victorian England and, yes, part of it takes place in a magical otherworld called the Realms, but still, Jemma and all her struggles and friends and enemies and frienemies feel real. This book concludes its narrative, but still leaves open a number of questions so that the sequel is very desirable. Even if it hadn't left open the major snare that gets you into the next book, you'd still want to go on. The world created, the characters introduced, and the relationships just starting to burgen in this book are developed more in the following ones. Well worth the read even if you aren't going on to the next, but with such a great author brilliant narrator, and compelling story, why wouldn't you. I'm still hoping for a fourth book.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brooke United States 08-30-12
    Brooke United States 08-30-12 Member Since 2011

    Just a book fool.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    189
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    Story
    "BORING."
    Any additional comments?

    This book was long, disconnected, and really freaking DULL! I didn't like the characters therefore I didn't give a flying flip what happened to them. I don't recommend the audio version of this and not because the narrator was bad (she was quite good) but because you should get it from the library so you can abandon it after it bores you to death.

    With all that said I have friends that gave this book 4 stars so please read at your own risk.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Llizzzie KaohsiungChina 07-06-09
    Llizzzie KaohsiungChina 07-06-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Certainly Great Reading!!"

    I know some people would not enjoy this book because it's mostly not what they 've been expecting. At first, I was sort of dissapointed, even feel bored, but then things started to get real exciting in the end. To read this book, you have to have patience and maturity, and you'll find it valuable. Really great book, great narration too.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vicki NATICK, MA, USA 09-15-04
    Vicki NATICK, MA, USA 09-15-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BORE"

    I just discovered that this is a book classified for young adults, which may explain why an actual adult found the story dull and derivative. Gemma Doyle, a 16 year old living in India, is sent to boarding school in England after the untimely death of her mother. There she wins over her snobby classmates when she discovers she has secret powers which enable her to transport her friends to the "Realms," a supernatural world. Unfortunately, when Gemma takes the magic of the Realms back to the real world, trouble ensues. Lots of better choices if you like this type of novel. The narrator does an adequate job.

    9 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Virginia Bermuda Dunes, CA, United States 11-11-04
    Virginia Bermuda Dunes, CA, United States 11-11-04 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    77
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    "Victorian page-turner"

    This book may be classified as Young Adult fiction but don?t let that stop you. It?s an intriguing, well-crafted story that will monopolize the time of anyone who enjoys the Victorian era, magic, life lessons, and complex characters. The author has perfectly captured the essence of sixteen-year-old girls, but there are no stereotypes here. The narrator manages to give each of the girls a distinctive voice ? and there are quite a few of them. I would recommend the book on the narrator?s performance alone.

    5 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Natasha McLean, IL, United States 01-15-14
    Natasha McLean, IL, United States 01-15-14 Member Since 2013
    ratings
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    2
    2
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    Story
    "Couldn't put it down/glad to learn there were2more"
    Where does A Great and Terrible Beauty rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    The best! But it was my first...


    What was one of the most memorable moments of A Great and Terrible Beauty?

    The friendship growing between the girls


    Have you listened to any of Josephine Bailey’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    This was the first


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    YES


    Any additional comments?

    I was so sad when the book ended only to learn there were 2 more books!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elkay Annapolis, MD 04-16-13
    Elkay Annapolis, MD 04-16-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Intriguing"
    What did you like best about A Great and Terrible Beauty? What did you like least?

    Libba Bray writes beautifully and clearly gets teenaged girls. I liked the characters, and I appreciated the fact that she didn't go the predictable route and make the girls' school into a den of horrors - in fact, it's a remarkably kindly place. What I liked least: the lack of insight on the part of the main character. I hope for long-term character development as the story continues in Books 2 and 3.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    Well, there's a whole secret magical world, and many characters of uncertain allegiance that I'm sure will become more significant as the plot develops.


    What about Josephine Bailey’s performance did you like?

    Everything. She was terrific.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Yup.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MJ Quincy, MA, United States 11-02-09
    MJ Quincy, MA, United States 11-02-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    92
    4
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    "slow to start,but worth it in th end"

    this book will fool you, the start is a bit dull but it is just setting the stage for the end game. the last 50% of the book is very good.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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