Fantasy, historical fiction, young adult

Audiobook Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A great and terrible beauty audiobook cover

Title: A Great and Terrible Beauty (Unabridged)
Author: Libba Bray
Narrator: Josephine Bailey
Publisher: Random House, Inc. & Listen Library
Length: 11 hours 13 minutes
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction, fantasy
Rating: 4 folded pages


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?


The last time I read a great and terrible beauty by libba bray I was 13. I remember having to look up nearly every other word or suffer through not knowing half of what was being said but I loved it none-the-less.  I decided to give audiobooks a try recently and started with something I’ve been meaning to re-read for a while considering it’s been almost 9 years.

I still love the plot as much as I remember which makes me really happy. I was slightly afraid I’d read (or rather listen to) it and I wouldn’t like it. I do think the book has a slow start. I kept wondering when they would get to the magic bit. The writing is still phenomenal though. I think that combined with listening to it rather than physically reading it is why I didn’t get impatient like I normally would.

The narrator, Josephine Bailey, did an amazing job. Every voice felt distinct and her British Victorian accent for Gemma felt very real. I enjoyed the way she pronounced and enunciated words and her voice wasn’t grating at all.

I thoroughly love Gemma but I did feel like some of the side characters like Pipper, Ann and Felicity could have been fleshed out a little more. Especially Pipper, I feel like most of the book we just get an annoying, jealous girl who’s afraid of losing Felicity to Gemma. I would have liked to see more go on between Gemma and Pipper to warrant some of what happens in the end. Another reason I couldn’t give this book a full 5 folded pages.

I enjoyed every minute of listening to this audiobook. I think I’m going make audiobooks a part of my reading. I had never really thought about it before, but I enjoyed listening to it while doing chores and taking walks.