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Other titles in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy series:

A Great and Terrible Beauty

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A Great and Terrible Beauty Cover

ISBN13: 9780385730280
ISBN10: 0385730284
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Excerpt

Chapter One

June 21, 1895

Bombay, India

"Please tell me that's not going to be part of my birthday dinner this

evening."

I am staring into the hissing face of a cobra. A surpris-ingly pink tongue slithers in and out of a cruel mouth while an Indian man whose eyes are the blue of blindness inclines his head toward my mother and explains in Hindi that cobras make very good eating.

My mother reaches out a white-gloved finger to stroke the snake's back. "What do you think, Gemma? Now that you're sixteen, will you be dining on cobra?"

The slithery thing makes me shudder. "I think not, thank you."

The old, blind Indian man smiles toothlessly and brings the cobra closer. It's enough to send me reeling back where I bump into a wooden stand filled with little statues of Indian deities. One of the statues, a woman who is all arms with a face bent on terror, falls to the ground. Kali, the destroyer. Lately, Mother has accused me of keeping her as my unofficial patron saint. Lately, Mother and I haven't been getting on very well. She claims it's because I've reached an impossible age. I state emphatically to anyone who will listen that it's all because she refuses to take me to London.

"I hear in London, you don't have to defang your meals first," I say. We're moving past the cobra man and into the throng of people crowding every inch of Bombay's frenzied marketplace. Mother doesn't answer but waves away an organ-grinder and his monkey. It's unbearably hot. Beneath my cotton dress and crinolines, sweat streaks down my body. The flies-my most ardent admirers-dart about my face. I swat at one of the little winged beasts, but it escapes and I can almost swear I hear it mocking me. My misery is reaching epidemic proportions.

Overhead, the clouds are thick and dark, giving warning that this is monsoon season, when floods of rain could fall from the sky in a matter of minutes. In the dusty bazaar the turbaned men chatter and squawk and bargain, lifting brightly colored silks toward us with brown, sunbaked hands. Everywhere there are carts lined with straw baskets offering every sort of ware and edible-thin, coppery vases; wooden boxes carved into intricate flower designs; and mangos ripening in the heat.

"How much farther to Mrs. Talbot's new house? Couldn't we please take a carriage?" I ask with what I hope is a noticeable annoyance.

"It's a nice day for a walk. And I'll thank you to keep a civil tone."

My annoyance has indeed been noted.

Sarita, our long-suffering housekeeper, offers pomegranates in her leathery hand. "Memsahib, these are very nice. Perhaps we will take them to your father, yes?"

If I were a good daughter, I'd bring some to my father, watch his blue eyes twinkle as he slices open the rich, red fruit, then eats the tiny seeds with a silver spoon just like a proper British gentleman.

"He'll only stain his white suit," I grumble. My mother starts to say something to me, thinks better of it, sighs-as usual. We used to go everywhere together, my mother and I-visiting ancient temples, exploring local customs, watching Hindu festivals, staying up late to see the streets bloom with candlelight. Now, she barely takes me on social calls. It's as if I'm a leper without a colony.

"He will stain his suit. He always does," I mumble in my defense, though no one is paying me a bit of attention except for the organ-grinder and his monkey. They're following my every step, hoping to amuse me for money. The high lace collar of my dress is soaked with perspiration. I long for the cool, lush green of England, which I've only read about in my grandmother's letters. Letters filled with gossip about tea dances and balls and who has scandalized whom half a world away, while I am stranded in boring, dusty India watching an organ-grinder's monkey do a juggling trick with dates, the same trick he's been performing for a year.

"Look at the monkey, memsahib. How adorable he is!" Sarita says this as if I were still three and clinging to the bottoms of her sari skirts. No one seems to understand that I am fully sixteen and want, no, need to be in London, where I can be close to the museums and the balls and men who are older than six and younger than sixty.

"Sarita, that monkey is a trained thief who will be begging for your wages in a moment," I say with a sigh. As if on cue, the furry urchin scrambles up and sits on my shoulder with his palm outstretched. "How would you like to end up in a birthday stew?" I tell him through clenched teeth. The monkey hisses. Mother grimaces at my ill manners and drops a coin in its owner's cup. The monkey grins triumphantly and leaps across my head before running away.

A vendor holds out a carved mask with snarling teeth and elephant ears. Without a word, Mother places it over her face. "Find me if you can," she says. It's a game she's played with me since I could walk-a bit of hide-and-seek meant to make me smile. A child's game.

"I see only my mother," I say, bored. "Same teeth. Same ears."

Mother gives the mask back to the vendor. I've hit her vanity, her weak point.

"And I see that turning sixteen is not very becoming to

my daughter," she says.

"Yes, I am sixteen. Sixteen. An age at which most decent girls have been sent for schooling in London." I give the word decent an extra push, hoping to appeal to some maternal sense of shame and propriety.

"This looks a bit on the green side, I think." She's peering intently at a mango. Her fruit inspection is all-consuming.

"No one tried to keep Tom imprisoned in Bombay," I say, invoking my brother's name as a last resort. "He's had four whole years there! And now he's starting at university."

"It's different for men."

"It's not fair. I'll never have a season. I'll end up a spinster with hundreds of cats who all drink milk from china bowls." I'm whining. It's unattractive, but I find I'm powerless to stop.

"I see," Mother says, finally. "Would you like to be paraded around the ballrooms of London society like some prize horse there to have its breeding capabilities evaluated? Would you still think London was so charming when you were the subject of cruel gossip for the slightest infraction of the rules? London's not as idyllic as your grandmother's letters make it out to be."

"I wouldn't know. I've never seen it."

"Gemma . . ." Mother's tone is all warning even as her smile is constant for the Indians. Mustn't let them think we British ladies are so petty as to indulge in arguments on the streets. We only discuss the weather, and when the weather is bad, we pretend not to notice.

Sarita chuckles nervously. "How is it that memsahib is now a young lady? It seems only yesterday you were in the nursery. Oh, look, dates! Your favorite." She breaks into a gap-toothed smile that makes every deeply etched wrinkle in her face come alive. It's hot and I suddenly want to scream, to run away from everything and everyone I've ever known.

"Those dates are probably rotting on the inside. Just like India."

"Gemma, that will be quite enough." Mother fixes me with her glass-green eyes. Penetrating and wise, people call them. I have the same large, upturned green eyes. The Indians say they are unsettling, disturbing. Like being watched by a ghost. Sarita smiles down at her feet, keeps her hands busy adjusting her brown sari. I feel a tinge of guilt for saying such a nasty thing about her home. Our home, though I don't really feel at home anywhere these days.

"Memsahib, you do not want to go to London. It is gray and cold and there is no ghee for bread. You wouldn't like it."

A train screams into the depot down near the glittering bay. Bombay. Good bay, it means, though I can't think of anything good about it right now. A dark plume of smoke from the train stretches up, touching the heavy clouds. Mother watches it rise.

"Yes, cold and gray." She places a hand on her throat, fingers the necklace hanging there, a small silver medallion of an all-seeing eye atop a crescent moon. A gift from a villager, Mother said. Her good-luck charm. I've never seen her without it.

Sarita puts a hand on Mother's arm. "Time to go, memsahib."

Mother pulls her gaze away from the train, drops her hand from her necklace. "Yes. Come. We'll have a lovely time at Mrs. Talbot's. I'm sure she'll have lovely cakes just for your birthday-"

A man in a white turban and thick black traveling cloak stumbles into her from behind, bumping her hard.

"A thousand pardons, honorable lady." He smiles, offers a deep bow to excuse his rudeness. When he does, he reveals a young man behind him wearing the same sort of strange cloak. For a moment, the young man and I lock eyes. He isn't much older than I am, probably seventeen if a day, with brown skin, a full mouth, and the longest eyelashes I have ever seen. I know I'm not supposed to find Indian men attractive, but I don't see many young men and I find I'm blushing in spite of myself. He breaks our gaze and cranes his neck to see over the hordes.

"You should be more careful," Sarita barks at the older man, threatening him with a blow from her arm. "You better not be a thief or you will be punished."

"No, no, memsahib, only I am terribly clumsy." He drops his smile and with it the cheerful simpleton routine. He whispers low to my mother in perfectly accented English. "Circe is near."

It makes no sense to me, just the ramblings of a very clever thief said to distract us. I start to say as much to my mother but the look of sheer panic on her face stops me cold. Her eyes are wild as she whips around and scans the crowded streets like she's looking for a lost child.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

fieldhockeyluver25, May 18, 2008 (view all comments by fieldhockeyluver25)
I loved this book so much! Reading about Gemma and her friends brightened up my days so much! I can''t wait to read the next one
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(4 of 5 readers found this comment helpful)
chelee33, May 1, 2008 (view all comments by chelee33)
This story takes place in the early 1900's. Basically, a girl finds out she has magic powers and she explores it with her friends during boarding school. They start sneaking out at night and having secret meetings.
I liked this story and I am looking forward to reading the next book. I was a little bored at some points, but mostly I was scared, excited and teary eyed!

Others I recommend: Uglies series, Blue Bloods, Twilight series
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(3 of 5 readers found this comment helpful)
momostar13, December 20, 2007 (view all comments by momostar13)
Ever since a Great and Terrible Beauty made its way into stores, it has held its number one spot on my list of favorites. The main character, Gemma Doyle, is a very accurate portrayal of a woman. She is stubborn, willful, and at times indecisive. There is nothing perfect about her, which makes it very easy for readers to relate to her.

The story takes place in the year 1895. Circumstances force Gemma to move from her homeland of India, to a finishing school in London. This had actually been her dream for many years. So great was her wanting to leave India that it had become a constant battle with her mother. When she had finally achieved her wish, it came at a great cost.

Once at Spence finishing school,Gemma finds herself rooming with the gloomy Ann, the pariah of the school. She soon meets Felicity and Pippa, the most popular girls; Ann's complete opposites. While Gemma's relationship with these girls is quite rocky...it progresses.

It isn't long before she notices that there is something odd happening in the school and also she begins to question her own sanity as she is constantly barraged by strange visions. Adding to her confusion and fear is the constant appearance of Kartik, an Indian boy she had met right before the events of her leaving India came into play.

What she cannot explain, are the strange feelings she has whenever he is around...

I would recommend this book mostly to a female audience, and I assure you it is absolutely fabulous!
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780385730280
Subtitle:
Splintered Book One
Author:
Bray, Libba
Author:
Patrick, J. Nelle
Author:
e Ahdieh
Author:
Cremer, Andrea
Author:
Longshore, Katherine
Author:
Howard, A. G.
Author:
eacute
Author:
Spotswood, Jessica
Author:
Sullivan, Laura L.
Author:
E
Author:
Spiegler, Louise
Author:
&
Author:
Goodman, Carol
Author:
Ren
Author:
Saundra Mitchell
Author:
Ahdieh, Ren
Publisher:
Amulet Books
Subject:
Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic
Subject:
Children's 12-Up - Fiction - General
Subject:
Schools
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Children's 12-Up - History - General
Subject:
Boarding schools
Subject:
Fantasy & Magic
Subject:
Magic
Subject:
Children s-Science Fiction and Fantasy
Subject:
Family - Siblings
Subject:
Fairy Tales & Folklore / Country & Ethnic
Subject:
fantasy;fiction;young adult;magic;ya;boarding school;historical fiction;england;supernatural;victorian;historical;gothic;india;friendship;romance;19th century;teen;paranormal;mystery;boarding schools;victorian england;girls;historical fantasy;gemma doyle;
Subject:
fantasy;fiction;young adult;magic;ya;boarding school;historical fiction;england;supernatural;victorian;historical;gothic;india;friendship;romance;19th century;teen;paranormal;mystery;boarding schools;victorian england;girls;historical fantasy;gemma doyle;
Subject:
fantasy;fiction;young adult;magic;ya;boarding school;historical fiction;england;supernatural;victorian;historical;gothic;india;friendship;romance;19th century;teen;paranormal;mystery;boarding schools;victorian england;girls;historical fantasy;young adult
Subject:
Love & Romance
Subject:
fantasy;fiction;young adult;magic;ya;boarding school;historical fiction;england;supernatural;victorian;historical;gothic;india;friendship;romance;19th century;teen;paranormal;mystery;boarding schools;victorian england;girls;historical fantasy;young adult
Subject:
Historical - United States - 19th Century
Subject:
Historical - Europe
Subject:
pioneer;prairie;historical romance;love;magic;The Vespertine;survival;American f
Subject:
teen fiction;ladies in waiting;love;treachery;England;court;girls;King Charles I
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Splintered
Series Volume:
2
Publication Date:
20130101
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
from 7
Language:
English
Pages:
384
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
14-17

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Related Subjects

Children's » Historical Fiction » Europe
Children's » Science Fiction and Fantasy » General
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » A to Z
Young Adult » General

A Great and Terrible Beauty Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$5.95 In Stock
Product details 384 pages Delacorte Press - English 9780385730280 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A Gothic touched by modern conceptions of adolescence, shivery with both passion and terror."
"Review" by , "Bray's gripping and suspenseful debut novel provides the perfect canvas for Wyatt....Colorful details of Indian bazaars and the Spence School in London make this outing all the more compelling."
"Review" by , "A well written page turner, with strong characterization and dialogue, this Victorian-era gothic novel will find many readers unable to put it down until the very last page."
"Review" by , "Soundly researched and credible....[An] exhilarating and thought-provoking read."
"Review" by , "An interesting combination of fantasy, light horror, and historical fiction, with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure."
"Synopsis" by ,
A stirring historical paranormal romance, and companion to The Vespertine, featuring a spirited young woman as she sets out on her own to find new love, a new home, and her extraordinary magical power—and experiences all the joys and hardships of pioneer life.
"Synopsis" by , Enter the scandalous world of King Charles II's court, where three young ladies in waiting discover a palace teeming with love, intrigue—and treachery.
"Synopsis" by ,
Sixteen-year-old Addie, an aspiring actress on a mission to save the historic Jewel Theater, time travels between Seattle at the beginning of the War on Terror and the Seattle of WWI, with the help of a magic mirror. Addie not only jumps between centuries and conflicts, but finds romance with a boy from another time.
"Synopsis" by ,
A 19th-century historical romance set in Victorian Baltimore about Amelia van den Broek, whose prophetic dreams have made her the talk of high society, and whose love for an artist distinctly outside of the social circle that threatens her place in it.
"Synopsis" by , Eliza dreams of being a playwright for the kings theater, where she will be admired for her witty turns of phrase rather than her fathers wealth.

Beth is beautiful as the day but poor as a church mouse, so she must marry well, despite her love for her childhood sweetheart.

Zabby comes to England to further her scientific studies—and ends up saving the life of King Charles II. Soon her friendship with him becomes a dangerous, impossible obsession. Though she knows she should stay away from the young, handsome king, Charles has a new bride, Queen Catherine, and a queen needs ladies in waiting.

And so Zabby, Beth, and Eliza, three Elizabeths from very different walks of life, find themselves at the center of the most scandal-filled court that England has ever seen.

"Synopsis" by , Heartbroken over the tragic death of her fiancé, seventeen-year-old Zora Stewart leaves

Baltimore for the frontier town of West Glory, Oklahoma, to help her young widowed

aunt keep her homestead going. There she discovers that she possesses the astonishing

ability to sense water under the parched earth. When her aunt hires her out as a

“springsweet” to advise other settlers where to dig their wells, Zora feels the burden of

holding the key to something so essential to survival in this unforgiving land.

Even more, she finds herself longing for love the way the prairie thirsts for water.

Maybe, in the wildness of the territories, Zora can finally move beyond simply surviving

and start living.

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