Feb 15, 2010

A Great and Terrible Beauty

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

My rating: 2 stars

Quick overview: Gemma, 16, has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother's death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls' academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions "for a bit of fun" and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the "others" and rebuild the Order. (from Goodreads)

If you don't have anything else to do, I'd suggest reading this book. It wasn't bad - in fact, at points the imagery in the writing was excellent. For example:

"Outside, the mist has thickened into a gray soup that settles around our legs." (Pg. 56)

Simply lovely. However, the plot never really held my attention for long periods of time. Parts of the story were good, parts were predictable, but overall it could have been about 100 pages shorter.

There were some observations made which helped me remember what women have had to overcome:

"We're all looking glasses, we girls, existing only to reflect their images back to them as they'd like to be seen. Hollow vessels 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." (Pg. 305)

So again, it wasn't horrible, but if the choice is this or something else I'd read the other book first.

Has anyone else read this? What did you think? Up next: The Bell Jar

(Photo: naturally nina)


Lucy The Valiant said...

I liked this one... I think mostly because of what you were pointing out, about how it reminds us of how far we'vve come. Sort of. I'm pretty sure I've dated some guys who wanted exactly that - a looking glass.

I've never read The Bell Jar - I'm looking forward to your review of it!

Scott said...

That is good writing. And women have indeed had to overcome alot. But that passage seems to apply to us men more now--in American society. We are the ones who have to maintain a certain image now. We are the ones lampooned by the entertainment industry now. We are the ones expected to keep quiet now. We are the ones against whom there is discrimination (especially in the courts) now.

Many people would read the above, and laugh--having not even considered it. And this, itself, may indicate that there is no equality among the sexes--the repression is simply shifting toward the male sex.

I remember an article in a well known news magazine entitled, "The Angry, White Male". And its tone was of nothing but ridicule. Angry women are praised, but angry men are dismissed. Nothing is accomplished if a society goes from one extreme to another--and this is exactly what's happening in the United States.

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