I am home sick, I have been for two days now. Bad cold! Yesterday I was so sick I couldn't read. However, on Monday, when I stayed home (I've been sick for over a week with this virus), I was able to read still. I picked up my first book for Carl's Once Upon a Time challenge, A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, and I am happy to report that I read it in one big gulp. I couldn't put it down, and since the kids were at school, I was able to read uninterrupted. (It was the last day I was able to read, since then I've been getting worse. Yesterday was movie day, since I couldn't read. Not sure about today yet).
I really enjoyed A Great and Terrible Beauty. It is a delightful coming-of-age YA set in Victorian India and England, England mostly. Gemma is 16,and lives in India. Her mother dies and Gemma witnesses the death through a strange occurrence where she is able to 'see' the death, and what mystery shape that follows her mother...... More of these strange 'seeings' come to her when she arrives in England, and finally goes to the boarding school she is being sent to for 'finishing', as was the norm among upper society families in Victorian England. At the Spence Academy, she discovers that boarding school is not the delight she thought it would be - girls have airs, wealth and family position are prominent in the social structure of the school, and Gemma is picked on by the elite of the school. This all sounds dire and - yes, it would be boring if it were in the hands of a less-gifted writer. All this is background to what is the main part of the story: Gemma's discovery that she has a magical ability that lets her move between worlds. And the bigger discovery that the accident that befell Spence Academy 20 years ago, involving the deaths of two of the girls there plus a teacher, are linked to her magical powers.
This is handled in such a fun way, with Gemma taking a stand and discovering what she values in herself and in others, and with the magic she discovers taking her to a world where she has to feel her way to what is real. There are 3 other girls in her group, Pippa, Ann, Felicity. They all want different things, and what the magical world does to each is fun to watch. If you were 16, would you have been any different from these girls? I know I wouldn't have been. There is a lovely mix of school and after-hours activity, with learning to hold her own and desperately wishing she could save her father, that makes Gemma Doyle an appealing heroine, and her adventures with going to the other universes - she is the one a Secret Order have been waiting for, to try to balance all the worlds again - is well done and believable. The friendships and girlishness and betrayals and changing loyalties among the girls is well-written and utterly believable. It made me glad I wasn't at the boarding school (having gone through high school hell already once, I never want to experience it again), even while I wished I could be part of the circle! The best part is, this is the first part of series, and I'm really curious how it continues. I quite like Gemma Doyle, she is an interesting heroine. It's a well-written fantasy story, highly recommended. 4.7/5
And on a personal issue with blogger today:
Please explain why my blog is with you, and yet I cannot leave comments on other blogposts. This is very frustrating, since there are some wonderful posts out there - Michelle at Fluttering Butterflies has a wonderful one on how reading novels has brought her to poetry; Debi at Still With Nothing Of Importance needs lots of hugs right now as she makes the final transition to her new home. But you will let me comment on Nymeth's 5 year post, and Cath at Read-Warbler's fabulous post about her recent trip to Wales, and her first review for Once Upon a Time Challenge (Katherine Langrish's West of the Moon.) Please fix this.
your affection loyal blogger