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A great and terrible beauty
Book
2004
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Trade Reviews

  Booklist Review

Gr. 8-12. Gemma Doyle is no ordinary nineteenth-century British teenager; she has disturbing visions. Upon finding the diary of a young student who was also a visionary of sorts, Gemma and three classmates, each of whom, like Gemma, has a personal demon to overcome, follow the diarist's lead and travel into the Realms, a place of both joy and danger. The jacket, a photo of a young woman in a tightly laced corset and lacy camisole, bespeaks a steamy love story (Gemma does have some sexy dreams about a young gypsy), but the costume is really a metaphor for the strictures against women of the period, which Bray limns extremely well in her debut novel. The Realms and the mystery surrounding the diary are less well handled, yet there's no doubt the mystical elements, along with a touch of forbidden romance, will draw a large, enthusiastic audience, who will come away wanting more about stubborn, willful Gemma and the strange world whose doors she can open at will. --Stephanie Zvirin Copyright 2003 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

Had Gemma but known what occult horrors would await her, would she still have wanted to leave India? Sixteen-year-old Gemma is sent to her long-desired London when her mother commits suicide. In a terrifying vision, she sees her mother attacked by a vile supernatural force. Would revelation of her own strange mental powers cause more scandal than her mother's outrÉ death? A sexy but suspicious young man has followed Gemma from India, and cryptically warns her to muffle her visions. Such constraint seems the goal of Gemma's proper finishing school as well. With corsets, deportment lessons, and rules, Spence Academy shapes prim young ladies. But the seemingly proper girls of Spence reveal various sexualities, passions, and hopes that strain the seams of their strict Victorian education. Mysterious continued visions, dark family secrets, and a long-lost diary thrust Gemma and her classmates back into the horrors that followed her from India. A Gothic touched by modern conceptions of adolescence, shivery with both passion and terror. (Fiction. YA) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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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