Sunday, January 15, 2012

Book Review : A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

"We're all looking glasses, we girls, existing only to reflect their images back to them. .  . Hollow vessel of girls to be rinsed of our own ambitions wants and opinions, just waiting to be filled with the cool tepid water of gracious compliance. . . a fissure forms in the vessel. I'm cracking open."                                                                        

- Libba Bray, A Great and Terrible Beauty

  A Great and Terrible Beauty is a witty, dark and funny novel that pulls readers into late 19th century England and the misadventures of Gemma Doyle.

After losing her mother under mysterious circumstances Gemma, an expat in India, is sent to London to attend Spence Academy, a finishing school for girls. Soon  she stumbles into a mystical and magical realm that is both dark and inviting.

The novel is slow paced and really focuses on telling the story of Gemma and her schoolmates and places only sporadic emphasis on the action.

My favorite character was a resident mean girl, Felicity Worthington, seriously she could give Regina George a run for her money.

At its surface, the novel is entertaining and intriguing. Bray does a wonderful job of giving the girls insecurities and anxieties that binds them in friendship, we get to see a different side of these 19th-century girls.

What really makes this novel stand out is the underlying idea of gender and what is clearly a metaphor for early feminism.In the Q&A section, Bray mentions that the novel was inspired by how groups of powerful women have struggled against and had been demonized by patriarchy.

 The girls in the novel are becoming restless and tired of being proper English roses.  Throughout the novel they began to think, challenge and look past their expectations. They began to think freely, question the morals and values they have been taught all their lives.

I look forward to reading the other two in the series. I hear the third one in over 800 pages ! Ack !


  1. Oh Oh Oh! I think I need to move this book higher up on my "to be read" pile! I remember adding it there a long time ago, but this has inspired me again!

    Also, part of the premise of the book sounds like A Little Princess. Did it seem that way to you? Just wondering :)

  2. When I first read this series in high school, I really enjoyed it! I would love to do a reread sometime soon, but I have so many new books to read as well!

  3. I love the premise of this. And I like that these girls begin to question the status quo and all that they have been taught to act and think. The way you describe the book, I think it would make for an interesting read.

  4. Sounds like a really good book! I enjoy historical fiction and I hadn't heard of this one so I'll be adding it to my "to read" list.

  5. This looks great. I really need to read some more historical fiction and this looks just like something I'd enjoy. Thanks for the great review. :)

  6. I've had this series sitting on my shelf FOREVER!!!! The covers ate so pretty I just couldn't resist... But still they sit!

  7. Cool, I have this book on TBR pile/list. I have to get this book at the library.

  8. I have this book, but hadn't gotten around to reading it. I appreciated your review and what your take on the book is.


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