Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [young adult]

A Great and Terrible Beauty

I really did not like Gemma Doyle at the beginning of A Great and Terrible Beauty. She bitched about everything, but in all honesty I bitched about everything when I was a teenager too. I kept that in mind when I was reading it, considering that I read this for my 19 Going on 20 Challenge. And she did grow, quite a bit really. So I was glad when I reached the end.

This is the first novel in the Gemma Doyle trilogy. Gemma is living in India with her mother and opium addicted father. She is sixteen and dying to go to school in London like a normal girl. What Gemma doesn't know is that she is not a normal girl, and her mother is not a normal woman. Her mother is keeping her in India for a very good reason. Of course, since she is a teenager none of this occurs to her and she just thinks her mother is out to get her. This is why she runs away from her in the market at the beginning of novel. She quickly becomes lost and when she looks to find her mother she has a painful vision. There is a man and her mother, and they are are both dying. This is when Gemma meets Kartik, a boy who cautions Emma against these visions she is having.

After her mother's death Gemma does go to school in London. It is 1895 and the school is Spence. The popular girls have their place, and Emma does not belong there. That is until she shows that she can play the game as well as any of them. She becomes friends with the rich and fashionable Felicity and Pippa, but only spends time with them if they will include Ann, Gemma's orphan roommate. I thought the friendship between the girls happened a little too quickly and a little too easily, but I did like how Felicity's character grew as the novel went on. It keeps you wondering if Felicity is really good or evil as she is obsessed with the idea of power.

My favorite aspect of this novel was how trapped the girls felt by the confines of marriage and society. I liked the idea of magic as an escape to this, even if I don't read a lot of fantasy novels (besides Harry Potter). I thought it was interesting to think that women or girls might dream of other realms or magic to save them from their doomed lives. I could definitely see Marianne from Sense and Sensibility coming up with something like this.

This novel earned a B.

Pub. Date: March 2005
Publisher: Random House Childrens Books
Format: Paperback, 432 pp

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