Friday, January 22, 2010

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Book Basics: This book is set in 1890s England. Like all books set in 1890s England, it actually begins in India...with an orphan (or 1/2 an orphan, in this case). Said orphan is then exported back to England where she enrolls in a boarding school and discovers a new family among the girls there. The twist to this novel is that the heroine, Gemma Doyle, is a teenager (not a 10-year-old) who has latent magical powers. The bulk of the novel is spent with Gemma learning how to harness her magical powers; manage complicated teenage friendships (with Felicity, Ann, and Pippa); and sort through those first stirrings caused by Kartik, a young Indian man with secrets.
Judgement: This is a light read that ends with the reader feeling unsatisfied...which leads us to Rebel Angels (book 2). I listened to this book in the car with my dad. Surprisingly, he enjoyed it; we will start Rebel Angels on CD this afternoon.
Situation: One part of this book was uncomfortable for me (since I was listening to it with my dad). Gemma has a sexual dream involving Kartik. Since we were listening to it on tape, I fastforwarded immediately because of my embarassment at listening to it with my dad. When I got to school, I pulled out our copy of the book and read the passage (I mean, if it was bad, I needed to know! I don't want to be blindsided with a parent complaint.) The passage turned out to be fine; I was just afraid of where it might go with my dad sitting right next to me.
Discussion: At what age do people feel comfortable doing adult things in front of their parents? I imagine this question depends on the type of parents you have. If your parents drank, smoked, or used foul language, maybe you would feel more comfortable doing those things in front of them; it would mortify me to do so. Since I'm married with children, I believe my parents have accepted the fact that I am sexually active. This topic is not as embarrasing to encounter around my mom as it was around my dad (see Situation). If one is not married, when it is OK for someone's parents to know a person is sexually active (assuming some of my teenagers at school are)?
A converse question would be: at what age do people feel comfortable practicing adult behaviors in front of their children? Do people who drink, smoke, and cuss do those things in front of their children from birth? When will I feel OK watching a movie with a sex scene with my kids in the same room (answer: NEVER!)?
You can find out more about this book at

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