Title: A Great and Terrible Beauty
Author: Libba Bray
Synopsis: 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?
To be completely honest, I’m kind of surprised I finished this book.
This book isn’t bad. It isn’t terrible. It’s OK. As I mentioned in my WWW Wednesday post for this week, I’ve read a lot of books with girls in boarding schools. I said in that post that (I was 21% through the book at the time) there wasn’t really anything unique to that aspect that had appeared yet.
It’s funny because the boarding school aspect is the only aspect of this book that I (somewhat) liked and enjoyed. I just like reading stories about female boarding schools in general and I like to watch friendships join, develop, disjoint and how the teachers are portrayed and such. I also really love historical-fiction, so when I saw this book on Goodreads I initially thought I would really like it since its 3.79 on Goodreads and has some great reviews from great reviewers.
My list of likes ends just about… there. As I mentioned in my WWW Wednesday post, there is also a fantasy element in this book. It’s a historical-fiction with a fantastical twist. The fantasy element is a pretty major part of the story, overruling the boarding school and historical-fiction contribution to the book.
I really didn’t like the fantasy element. I’ve read a lot of fantasy books, and this fantasy element just seemed very weird and somewhat confusing to me, maybe it was because when I was reading it I was tired? Or maybe the way it was played out just didn’t work for me? I’ve also read a lot of books about fairies and… this one wasn’t that unique when it came to eating the fairy fruits, having whatever wish you desired, the need of a sacrifice, I could go on. However it was unique in some other ways too, which I won’t list for spoiler reasons.
Also I really didn’t like any of the characters and I didn’t like any of the friendships all too much either. The friendships between the girls were constantly being tugged back and forth throughout the book and it annoyed me more than intrigued or interested or entertained me. I just didn’t like how flippant the girls sometimes seemed, and it was boring to read about.
I like reading about boarding schools because they interest me, but this one really didn’t interest me as much as a lot of other boarding school books I’ve read. Maybe I’ve read too many. Or maybe this book just isn’t for me. Either way, the boarding school aspect was disappointing, but I did find the whole exploration of Victorian society interesting.
Since I don’t like the first book I see no reason to continue with this series. Let me know… do you think any of other Libba Bray’s books are better than this one? Did you like this book?