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The Flight of Gemma Hardy: A Novel Paperback – June 26, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The talented Livesey updates Jane Eyre, changing the setting to Scotland and the Orkneys during the 1950s and ’60s but taking care to home in on the elements of this classic story that so resonate with readers: a resourceful orphan makes her way in an uncaring world and not only endures but also triumphs. Despite readers’ familiarity with the story line, they will be held rapt as Gemma Hardy, orphaned at age 10, is taken in by a loving uncle only to lose him, too. Her aunt so cruelly shuns her in the wake of her uncle’s death that she looks forward to attending boarding school, but her status as a working girl means that she has little time for her schoolwork, often laboring to the point of exhaustion. Still, Gemma’s high intelligence and fierce resolve see her through many difficult experiences until she lands a dream job as an au pair on the isolated yet beautiful Orkney Islands. There she meets the family that will change her life (minus the madwoman in the attic). A sure bet for both book clubs and Brontë fans. --Joanne Wilkinson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“A delight....Livesey is a lovely, fluid writer.” (Sarah Towers, New York Times Book Review)

“A cunning adaptation.” (Liza Nelson, O, the Oprah Magazine)

“Absorbing….Ms. Livesey writes lovely, understated prose…[her] treks through the novel’s pleasing natural landscapes…are almost as engaging as her navigation of Gemma’s restless psyche.” (Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal)

“Livesey delivers a suspenseful, curl-up-by-the-fire romance with a willfully determined protagonist who’s worthy of her literary role model.” (People)

“Jane Eyre gets a terrific modern makeover….Livesey works some sort of magic in The Flight of Gemma Hardy, which is too entertaining to be superfluous, too wise in its understanding of human nature to be a mere retread.” (Connie Ogle, Miami Herald)

“Livesey has pulled off the near-impossible task that the homage begs an author to do: create an original, fresh work that shines in its own light, while bringing an established, esteemed work to the attention of new readers, and showing off previously unseen facets to its fans….” (Meredith Maran, Boston Globe)

“Livesey follows Brontë‘s form, but so convincingly does she create her own character’s life and surroundings that the original soon recedes, its story a beloved, familiar body dressed in an entirely new and vibrant wardrobe.” (Atlantic Monthly)

“Marvelous....Gemma Hardy is one of those page turners in which you occasionally have to wrest yourself away from the plot to admire the language.” (Kristin Ohlson, Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“A brilliantly paced contemporary adventure about a headstrong orphan’s struggle to claim a place for her generous heart in a secret-laden, sometimes loveless world.” (Lisa Shea, Elle)

“Inspired by Jane Eyre, Livesey (The House on Fortune Street) offers vibrant prose and a feisty heroine in her fascinating sixth novel…. Captivating and moving, this book is a wonderful addition to Livesey’s body of work.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

“The portrait of a delicate, iron-willed girl, an orphan and a heroine in the grand tradition…. Here as in all of Livesey’s novels, the real treasure is her gift for exploring the unreduced human psyche with all its radiant contradictions, mercurial insights, and desperate generosities.” (David Wroblewski, author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle)

“In this modern day retelling of Jane Eyre - trade horses for private jets - novelist Margot Livesey pays homage to Brontë‘s literary classic.” (Marie Claire, "Four New Page-Turners to Keep Bedside")

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (June 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062064231
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062064233
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (215 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #289,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Margot Livesey is the acclaimed author of the novels The House on Fortune Street, Banishing Verona, Eva Moves the Furniture, The Missing World, Criminals, and Homework. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Vogue, and The Atlantic, and she is the recipient of grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. The House on Fortune Street won the 2009 L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award. Livesey was born in Scotland and grew up on the edge of the Highlands. She lives in the Boston area and is a Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Emerson College.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Susan K. Schoonover VINE VOICE on December 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
JANE EYRE has been one of my all time favorite books since I first read it as a sixth grader. So I was excited to get a chance to read and review THE FLIGHT OF GEMMA HARDY which claims to be a reimagining of the classic novel set in post World War II Iceland and Scotland. The parallels between Jane and Gemma are very obvious in the first portion of the book which I felt to be the best. Both Jane and Gemma are smart, spunky, orphans taken in by a loving uncle then despised by his jealous widow. Both girls are mistreated by cousins of similar ages then sent to horrid boarding schools and abandoned by all known relatives. Jane and Gemma overcome horrible school experiences which for both involve the untimely death of their only school friend. However when Jane leaves school and meets Mr. Rochester that novel becomes really interesting to me. In GEMMA HARDY the novel is all downhill once our heroine turns eighteen.

I think the main problem with GEMMA HARDY is I never really believed in the love affair between Gemma and Mr. Sinclair. And Mr. Sinclair's big secret that is revealed on their wedding day and causes Gemma to take flight? I had to read those passages over a couple of times since surely I was missing something as this revelation did not seem to be a dramatic romance breaker. And Gemma is just a little too comfortable lying, stealing and taking advantage of the nice people who help her for me not to want to give her a good shaking and resent her implied happily ever after ending. I was hoping Mr. Sinclair would forget this flighty teenager and find someone nearer his own age. I will say I learned a lot about Iceland and Scottish islands from reading GEMMA HARDY and I couldn't decide whether to give the book three or four stars. I decided to round down to three since the heart pounding gothic romance of JANE EYRE is quite lacking from this updated version.
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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful By D. Williams VINE VOICE on December 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Margot Livesey's "The Flight of Gemma Hardy" is the story set in the 1960's of a girl who grew up in both Iceland and Scotland prior to the death of her parents. A Scottish uncle takes her in and raises her with as much love as he had for his own children, but then the beloved uncle dies. The aunt intensely dislikes poor Gemma, making her even less than a servant at home, then, when the time is right, sending Gemma to a bleak boarding school. At the school, Gemma is a working girl; she cooks, cleans, and does other chores to pay for her keep there.

Perhaps a year before Gemma would have graduated from the school, it closes because of lack of funds. Gemma then takes a job as a nanny in a remote part of Scotland. She loves the job and the family, but she runs away and takes another job. It seems that every time Gemma finds happiness, something causes her to run from it.

Gemma is an interesting, sympathetic character, strong yet vulnerable. Her one failing is what I stated above: whenever she seems to find happiness, she runs from it. The novel is very well-written. The style was strong yet vulnerable, just like Gemma. I wanted to keep going to see if she would find happiness and not run from it!

There are comparisons between this novel and Bronte's "Jane Eyre." It's been too many years since I've read "Jane Eyre." "The Flight of Gemma Hardy" intrigued me enough to want to pull my ancient copy of "Jane Eyre" down off the shelf and read it.
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58 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Alan A. Elsner VINE VOICE on February 11, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I see from the review that many readers very much enjoyed this reworking of 'Jane Eyre' set in Scotland in the 1950s and 196os. I guess that's my first problem with it. It is supposed to be taking place at a specific time and place -- but there is no sense of time or place. The Scotland the author depicts is more akin to the 1850s than the 1950s. We meet little Gemma after she has been orphaned and taken in by her uncle's family. Her uncle, a vicar, is kind to her but he dies and the rest of the family turns her in a drudge and locks her in a closet. At this point, I thought I was reading Cinderella -- the cruelty of the family is hard to believe but has a kind of fairytale aspect to it. Modern day cruelty, which we now call abuse, has a much deeper, more evil character. Gemma seems relatively unmarked by all the cruelty she endures. None of it buries very deep into her soul.

Gemma is packed off to a Dickensian boarding school where she has to work as a skivvy in return for an education. Did this kind of things really take place in mid-20th century Britain? We even get the faithful friend dying of consumption -- in this case asthma.

The school is a kind of nasty island cut off from reality. Nowhere in this book in fact does anyone watch TV or listen to the radio. We never hear a pop song in the background. It's a very weird sensation. The author has created her own, barren and unimagined version of a specific time and place -- but her creation is devoid of smell, sound or atmosphere. There are a couple of contemporary references (Yuri Gagarin, Harold McMillan) but they are jarring because there is no sense of Britain as it really was at that time.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jane S Poole on April 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The reviews had me drooling, almost. I'm a fan of the novels of Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen, and Elizabeth Gaskell, and the reviews promised a modern day Jane Eyre. That, Gemma is not. True, the plot is the same: the orphaned au pair Gemma does run away from her fiancé. She does experience difficulties. What's missing is a reason for running. Jane Eyre fled because of the strength of her moral convictions. She was torn between them and her love. Gemma flees because her fiancé lies to her, but she has no moral conviction against lying herself. There is no convincing struggle, thus, no relief when she's reunited to her lover. Modern day heroine Gemma is; Jane Eyre she is not.
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