I have been hearing about this series for a couple years, but never made it to it. I think I thought it was going to be a ridiculous, romantic Jane Austen wannabe, and I just wasn't interested. But it kepts showing up on lists, kept getting rave reviews, and finally, when I found out I could take books from our school library and keep them all summer, I grabbed the whole trilogy and put it on my need-to-read-over-the-summer list. Even then I put it off (they are big books) until I decided to take them with me to Vegas a couple weeks ago and really had the time to read. Once again I'm kicking myself for waiting so long.
This is the story of a girl, Gemma Doyle, who witnesses the tragic death of her mother while living with her parents in India, and returns to England, with her father, to attend a finishing school. While there, she longs to investigate the disturbing events of her mother's death that just don't add up, figure out how to find her place in a society she is not accustomed to, and find some way to overcome her grief. Mysterious events begin to take place - dreams that haunt her even when awake, and then she starts to hear tales about a society that enabled women and had significant power, but for some reason was lost.
This is a very smart book. It is in Victorian England and has all of the finesse and foolishness of that society. Gemma is a very strong willed heroine but understands the necessity to conform and fit in. She stands up for herself when questioned, takes the sides she decides to be appropriate and is smart. Felicity, her friend, borders a stereotype of being a snob, but has moments that make her endearing. Pippa also toys with being cliche but is just different enough, just unique enough, to make her lovable, even when I didn't want to. Ann could be annoying with her despair and vicitm-like attitude, but somehow the pity isn't overwhelming. There are few series I've read that fused the intelligence and imagination this well.