A Great and Terrible Beauty
by Libba Bray
In the late 1800's, Gemma Doyle feels by the demands of Victorian England on its women. She is intelligent and full of confidence, but also has to fit into a mold that requires her to follow certain social rules. In her boarding school, she and her fellow classmates are being trained to be wives--dancing, deportment, the painting of bowls of fruit, and French. Girls are chastised for speaking their minds because it will not be beneficial for their season and will not help them to find a husband.
We all groan inwardly at this and so does Gemma. At the same time, Gemma's confidence waivers when she thinks of her mother (whose death she is certain is her fault) and a new-found power that brings on mysterious visions. She speaks freely to the mean-girls in her new school, but then frets about being within their circle.
Gemma often angers me. She angers me because she is smart and sees through the game that Felicity, the ring leader of the mean-girls, is playing. Felicity plays the girls against one another, and Gemma knows this, points this out. However it does not stop her from wanting to please Felicity at the expense of others, or feeling happy that another girl has been put in her place. It's as if Gemma sees this trap ahead of her, is well aware that if she goes towards it, she will fall in--yet she still does.
There are two other books that accompany this one and I vaguely remember them, but re-reading A Great and Terrible Beauty 10 years after I originally read it, I'm a bit over the queen bee type of thing going on here. Even Gemma who is supposed to be our heroine and painted in a kinder and more enlightened light than her friends isn't that great of a person. I'm trying to figure out what I originally liked so much about her--should I continue re-reading the series? Probably, but I'll take my time with it and get to it sometime in the near future.
Check out my review of A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray here.
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