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A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle #1)

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3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  172,246 Ratings  ·  8,306 Reviews
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 yo ...more
Paperback, 418 pages
Published March 22nd 2005 by Ember (first published December 9th 2003)
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Karen Kimbrough I wasn't sure at first if I liked it or not. It's not as as full of the supernatural as the books I'm used to, but I kept reading. I was attracted to…moreI wasn't sure at first if I liked it or not. It's not as as full of the supernatural as the books I'm used to, but I kept reading. I was attracted to the themes of coming-of-age, tragedy, and the idea of bullies amid the Victorian era. It was high-fashion to be "into" elegant paranormal, so these young girls delving into something "more" was gothic yet cute(?) to them. They didn't know what they were doing. If you're looking for a scary novel, this really isn't it, but if something more intellectual, more like an old-fashioned 1940's movie is to your liking; you'll like it. I mean it's written so that a teen would understand it, but it's not just full of blood either. It is rather sad most of the time though. Despite that, I did like it.(less)
Gemma I usually avoid books that has romance but i loved this! The book didn't focus on it at all.
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Cover Lust
46th out of 674 books — 559 voters
Fallen by Lauren KateHush, Hush by Becca FitzpatrickShiver by Maggie StiefvaterNightshade by Andrea CremerHalo by Alexandra Adornetto
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter: 1 star  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
honestly mem
A Great and Terrible Beauty is neither great nor beautiful, though it is indeed -- wait for it! -- terrible.

The characters are simple and one-dimensional, their actions both petty and selfish. I find it difficult to believe any one of the four girls at the heart of the story cared for one another, much less anyone else. The story meanders, often digressing into lengthy passages that do little if anything to advance the characters or the story. As the story progresses, drawing to its predictable
...more
Maura
This is a young adult book, so I tried really hard to take that into consideration when judging it, but there are so many other, well-done kid/teen books out there that I feel OK about occasionally trashing one.

It basically follows the same overdone storyline we've all seen way too many times: boarding school kids whose parents don't want them discover they have magical powers, and they go through the whole 'magic for good versus magic for evil' struggle. This one didn't work because there was n
...more
Nikki
Aug 16, 2011 Nikki rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I got most of the way through this, and then found that I just didn't care. I didn't care about the characters, the plot moved in fits and starts, the romance/tension/whatever it was supposed to be, with Kartik, just felt pasted on... In conclusion, I basically ran out of give-a-damn.

The writing is competent, in that it's all easy enough to read and understand, but given that the main character's voice wasn't convincing, even though she's the narrator, and the pacing felt jerky, the characters u
...more
Jane
Sep 04, 2007 Jane rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didnt-finish
Ugh, this is the worst book I have read recently. Maybe it's due to the expectation I have from reading the reviews here and the pretty, pretty covers (including Rebel Angels). I really, really wanted to like this.

For one, the characterization and language were too modern that it hardly seem believable (and I had been on a steady diet of Patrick O'Brian). The narrative writing was awkward and stilted, the characters were one-dimensional, and the plot build-up was too slow. After 1/3 of the book
...more
Laura
May 12, 2008 Laura rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Is it fair to say I hate a book if I didn't even finish it? My high school English teacher would say No. But I don't care. I hated this book. It was painful for me to read. I didn't like the story or the characters. I agonized over each word that was written. For nearly 6 weeks I tried to make myself sit down and read it. When there was a choice between scrubbing my toilet and reading this book, I chose the toilet!

I know there will be some who will throw me into the streets and cast stones at me
...more
rachelle
Dec 01, 2008 rachelle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm furious. I kept reading, waiting for this thing to go somewhere, for something cool to happen. It didn't! Nothing worth anything happened here.

Stuff that inspired a lot of ALL CAPS emotion:

Cecily leaves the room. Four seconds later, she ASKS A QUESTION. From another room? Another realm? From a fired copy editor's back pocket? (pg 194 and 197)

Gypsy boy warns girl to "knock that off or else."
Gypsy boy warns girl to "knock that off or else."
Gypsy boy warns girl to "knock that off or else."

Gyps
...more
Nicole Catherine
Feb 06, 2009 Nicole Catherine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: NO ONE. STAY AWAY. NOT WORTH YOUR TIME.
I read this book because it's the kind of genre I usually enjoy: Victorian era fantasy. But the farther I got into this book, the more I wanted to say to the author, "Wait, what???"

When Gemma is sent to boarding school, she is predictably set upon by the school bullies. However, quite soon Gemma becomes friends with these girls. Not because they're nice girls at heart (none of them had even a shadow of morals or ethics, or even a sense of human decency) but because Gemma wants to be ACCEPTED. D
...more
Camly Nguyen
Sep 24, 2015 Camly Nguyen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Two words: it sucked.

Gemma lives in India with her parents. When her mom suddenly died in a mysterious attack, her family sends her to England to be a proper lady. She meets a group of bitches and they form this secret group to travel in another dimension. A shit load of gossip happens about here. Then... Drama, drama, drama. Oh look a handsome young man. More drama. Oh shit Gemma meets her mother in the other world and now she has to fight of Circe. Little tiny ass twist here in the last 20 pag
...more
Nan
Orientalist trash.

This was, without a doubt, one of the most irritating books I've ever read. It continues and reinforces Orientalist characterizations without a single qualm. As a scholar of nineteenth-century British literature, I'm used to seeing Orientalist tropes used in books from my period. While they are regrettable, they're also part and parcel of the time in which they were written. While this novel may have been set in nineteenth-century Victorian India and England, there was no need
...more
Lizabeth
Ugh. What a colossal disappointment.

Reading this book was a painful experience, like trudging up a never ending hill. It felt more like a book that had been assigned by a teacher for an assignment, not something I was reading for fun. I put off reading the last few chapters, procrastinating by doing more enjoyable things like staring at the ceiling and rearranging my sock draw.

I feel so cheated with 'A great and Terrible Beauty' because it had such a great premise, a fantastic setting (1800's E
...more
Julie
Aug 05, 2011 Julie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you're going to set a book in the Victorian era, you have to understand the Victorian era. It's not enough to get the clothes right. You have to understand and convey the mindset. Yes, of course, well-off Victorian girls were being sold in a marriage market, but that's not how they were taught to think of it, nor would they have talked about it in that way even if they were beginning to suspect that this was the case. Look at their furniture, their clothes, their literature, their sense of de ...more
Michelle
Apr 17, 2008 Michelle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like Inkheart
Shelves: fantasy
This book is written in drab and over detailed writing, and the characters are not likable. What I didn't like most about this book is that it was so hard to read. It was just as bad as "Emma". The whole boarding school/magical realm theme is overused, and Bray has no talent as a writer whatsoever.

I picked up this book because my friends liked it, and I would have put it down after the first chapter, but I decided that if they liked it as much as they did, I would keep going, for their sake, be
...more
Deb
Dec 26, 2007 Deb rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: twelve year old girls who enjoy magical realism
Insipid ramblings from a first-person narrative that reads like a teenage girl's diary with occasional instances of dark insight that are deep and delicious but not enough to warrant picking up a copy of this.

I thought I might enjoy this series since Libba Bray keeps getting lumped together with two YA authors I'm a fan of, Stephenie Meyer & Scott Westerfeld. Nada! It took forever for anything to happen in this book (there's no magic until 3/4 of the book is over), the cover is not at all re
...more
Beth
Mar 05, 2008 Beth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
When I checked this book out I had a short conversation about it with the librarian. It may have contaminated my reading of the book, but I couldn’t help but agree with her impressions of the novel. The story seemed far to adult to be considered young adult fiction, at least not for people still in high school. The topics of magic and evil were very dark and unlike novels where there is still hope for goodness to win this one seemed to offer no such hope. The novel also had a surprising sexualit ...more
Sabrina
Oct 18, 2007 Sabrina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one!
First of all, a book gets on my bad side on page one if it is written in present tense. That's just one of my personal preferences; I hate present tense. Just the mere act of writing it down makes it past tense! I realize it is intended to draw the reader into the story, but it turns me right off. And what was the beauty in this book? Her mother? Her undiscovered power? The boarding school? I have no idea what the "terrible beauty" actually was. Weak plot, no real antagonist... I struggled throu ...more
Caitlyn
Jan 27, 2015 Caitlyn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book. The summary sounded right up my alley, I simply love historical fiction. A Great and Terrible Beauty failed to capture my attention, last night right in the middle of the "climax" my friend wanted to go get food so I put it down without a thought. A good book should force you to not move until you finish it because you can't bear the thought of abandoning it mid-story.
"Forget food, I need to know how this ends!" -- Not me last night.

The plot in itself is intri
...more
Maureen E
Aug 03, 2010 Maureen E rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, young-adult
http://bysinginglight.wordpress.com/2...

I have heard this book highly praised and moderately praised. I regret to say that I cannot praise it at all.

In the first place, the book is supposedly set in Victorian England. The scene is skilfully set, but the characters' voices, motivations, and concerns felt overwhelmingly modern. Gemma, with her unconventional background, could get away with it a bit, but four or five characters (all the ones we really get to know) having the same issue? It doesn't
...more
nicoll lu
Aug 17, 2012 nicoll lu rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mini-book-club
A Great and Terrible Beauty. The pretentious title promises so much – I was thinking dichotomy, inability to reconcile feelings about the world and life which are at the same time so very dark and extremely bright. I was thinking about a protagonist at odds with herself, with her inability to perceive beauty as the rest of the world does. Great title, terrible book. Childish, superfluous, lack of unity and reason, predictable as the weather forecast for Juneau.
The greatest and the most terrible
...more
Lydia
Mar 19, 2008 Lydia rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second book I read for my teen book club. And I hated it. It should be called "A Great And Terrible Book" as it was loooong and boring. Its only redeeming quality is the list of discussion questions in the back, which will make my job easier in the book club.
Giselle
Jan 12, 2011 Giselle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was definitely not my style. It started out slow, continued slow, and ended slow. The plot was almost non existent and very predictable. It would be a good book to read if you've never really read any books of this type before, or if you're very young.
~Tina~
I've tried FOREVER to get into this book. I just can't do it and it's upsetting since I've heard it's actually really great:(
Allify
Oct 10, 2009 Allify rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
daniel
Oct 10, 2012 daniel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am fond of fantasy genre as well as of novels set in Victorian age. This novel though, made me regret the time spent reading it. Why? For starters it's not an original story. When it comes to fantasy elements one may think that the only limit is the writer's own fantasy and that there's plenty to explore, new narrative paths to follow, particularly bizarre ideas to unravel to an amazed reader. Well there aren't. This novel is just a new combination of past fantasy books stereotypes and lore: T ...more
Whisper19
Aug 16, 2012 Whisper19 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mini-book-club
Where do I start with the miserable experience that is the reading of this book?
Perhaps with the inconsistency in the writing voice of the author/main character? Libba simply cannot decide if she is a 16 year old 19th century girl or a 20-30something woman from the 21st century and that is very annoying (but not the most annoying thing in this book.)
The most annoying thin are the characters. It has been a long time since I've come across a more annoying character than Gemma. On every page I just
...more
Natalia
Feb 04, 2011 Natalia rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one I love
Gosh, this book didn't get me intrigued at all. I was thinking that if I could just get past a milestone of some-sort it would get better, but no. So I put it down thinking that maybe I wasn't really in the mood to be reading this kind of book. Knowing that that does happen to me and thinking I would pick it up in a week or two...needless to say that never happened.

Nothing got me interested, or hooked or even worried about the characters. I felt no connection towards any of the characters and I
...more
Josie
Dec 10, 2009 Josie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't understand what anyone could see in this book! The characters were all so unlikeable and I still don't understand why they became friends. Ann was a repulsive drip of a girl, and Felicity and Pippa were bullies, but somehow Gemma decided they should all band together to form a new Order. Wait, what? Why? They're always arguing -- which, fair enough, does happen among teenage girls -- but they all seem so mistrustful of each other, like they're not sure why they're friends either. (Apart ...more
Danielle
Jan 14, 2009 Danielle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Set in a victorian era boarding school, the journey begins after Gemma Doyle witnesses the untimely death of her mother. Ridden with guilt and sorrow, the events that transpired on the fateful day she lost her mother begin to haunt her, which entices the reader with mystery and intrigue. Only to discover that your curiosities will not be quenched nor will the looming mysteries be solved.

Although set with great possibilities, the authors form of writing was difficult to get comfortable with, as i
...more
Miss Clark
Mar 29, 2012 Miss Clark rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: the-bog
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Wendy
Sep 07, 2009 Wendy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I made it to page 171 and felt I could not read anymore. The story is mildly intriguing and yet the writing is not masterful. I was reading it to see if it was a book my two 14 year old daughters could read. I was disappointed in how the girls in the book started acting (stealing wine and getting drunk; one girl kisses another and talks about lesbians; the girls decide to start doing "magic") and with the direction the book was taking. I am not going to finish it, nor will I recommend to others.
Teri
Sep 01, 2007 Teri rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: could-not-finish
Well I found a book I didn't want to finish! Supposedly, the narrator is a young woman in late Victorian times, but her diction sounds like a 7th grader from Lakeside Middle School today! The characters had no real distinction other than one being poor and meek, another being rich and mean, etc. There's some mystical force that overcomes the narrator at times, moving shadows or something, but then it's all mixed up with Gypsies, Celtic goddesses, Indian mystics, and who knows what. It's a mess!
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2526
What is it about writing an author bio that gives me that deer-in-headlights feeling? It's not exactly like I'm going to say "I was born in Alabama…" and somebody's going to jump up and snarl, "Oh yeah? Prove it!" At least I hope not.

I think what gets me feeling itchy is all that emphasis on the facts of a life, while all the juicy, relevant, human oddity stuff gets left on the cutting room floor.
...more
More about Libba Bray...

Other Books in the Series

Gemma Doyle (3 books)
  • Rebel Angels (Gemma Doyle, #2)
  • The Sweet Far Thing (Gemma Doyle, #3)

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“Shall I tell you a story? A new and terrible one? A ghost story? Are you ready? Shall I begin? Once upon a time there were four girls. One was pretty. One was clever. One charming, and one...one was mysterious. But they were all damaged, you see. Something not right about the lot of them. Bad blood. Big dreams. Oh, I left that part out. Sorry, that should have come before. They were all dreamers, these girls. One by one, night after night, the girls came together. And they sinned. Do you know what that sin was? No one? Pippa? Ann? Their sin was that they believed. Believed they could be different. Special. They believed they could change what they were--damaged, unloved. Cast-off things. They would be alive, adored, needed. Necessary. But it wasn't true. This is a ghost story remember? A tragedy. They were misled. Betrayed by their own stupid hopes. Things couldn't be different for them, because they weren't special after all. So life took them, led them, and they went along, you see? They faded before their own eyes, till they were nothing more than living ghosts, haunting each other with what could be. With what can't be. There, now. Isn't that the scariest story you've ever heard?” 723 likes
“There are no safe choices. Only other choices.” 705 likes
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