A Great and Terrible Beauty : Gemma Doyle

  • by Libba Bray
  • Narrated by Josephine Bailey
  • Series: Gemma Doyle
  • 11 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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?

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What the Critics Say

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

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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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.



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- Beverly

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.
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- Jennifer

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-23-2004
  • Publisher: Listening Library