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The Flight of Gemma Hardy Paperback – June 26, 2012
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“A delight....Livesey is a lovely, fluid writer.” (S
“A cunning adaptation.” (L
“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.” (S
“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.” (C
“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….” (M
“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.” (K
“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.” (L
“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)
From the Back Cover
Taken from her native Iceland to Scotland in the early 1950s when her widower father drowns at sea, young Gemma Hardy comes to live with her kindly uncle and his family. But his death leaves Gemma under the care of her resentful aunt, and she suddenly finds herself an unwelcome guest. Surviving oppressive years at a strict private school, Gemma ultimately finds a job as an au pair to the eight-year-old niece of Mr. Sinclair on the Orkney Islands—and here, at the mysterious and remote Blackbird Hall, Gemma's greatest trial begins.
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Livesey purposely follows the plot line of Jane Eyre quite closely for most of the book, including little details along the way that readers of Jane Eyre will recognize — like beginning the book with a near identical sentence and matching weather conditions to the beginning of Jane Eyre. In the opening of The Flight of Gemma Hardy we meet the orphaned Gemma as she is coping with the death of her uncle and the subsequent rejection by her aunt and cousins. Not surprisingly, Gemma is sent away to a nasty school for girls in the Borders of Scotland.
The time Gemma spends at the girls’ school is difficult and depressing. Despite the harsh circumstances, Gemma manages to get an education for herself and to make a friend or two along the way. Eventually the girls’ school closes and Gemma is forced to find a job to support herself. After sending out numerous inquires, Gemma finds employment as a tutor to a motherless child residing at Blackbird Hall in the Orkneys.
It is at this point in the book, when Gemma moves to the Orkney islands, that the descriptions of the Scottish countryside begin to appear and one really notices that this book is set in Scotland. Gemma heads to a farming community in the northeast part of the main island where Blackbird Hall is situated. Once at Blackbird Hall Gemma must win the trust of her charge, a wild youngster named Nell. Over time Gemma gets to know the other staff in the house and their families. Eventually the elusive Mr. Sinclair, Gemma’s true employer, comes to Blackbird Hall to visit his niece, Nell, and check on the progress she is making with her new governess.
Knowing the plot of Jane Eyre, we know that Gemma and Mr. Sinclair fall in love, and, of course, have a major falling out which results in Gemma’s moving away from the island back to the mainland. At this point the plot line diverges a bit from what we would expect. Gemma is taken in by two middle-aged women in the town of Aberfeldy and eventually finds tutoring work there. Like Jane Eyre she is drawn into a relationship with a young man but there is a different twist to how it unfolds. Part of this unfolding involves her deep interest in Iceland, the land of her mother’s birth, and her longing to return there to see where she herself spent several years as a young child. Of course the book must end with a similar conclusion to that of Jane Eyre which means Gemma gets back together with Mr. Sinclair. Livesey throws in a little feminist-sounding twist to the very end bringing the story of Jane Eyre truly into the modern age.
“Meanwhile she punched down the dough and asked what the Borders were like. I told her about the soft, rounded hills, the remains of volcanoes — volcanoes in Scotland, she exclaimed — and the green fields. I described the abbeys the regular girls had visited on school trips, and Sir Walter Scott’s house.”
Travel Notes: this book would be ideal for reading while traveling in the Borders, during a visit to the Orkneys, or a stay in Perthshire.
presented with the vividness of the Bronte. If I were an English teacher, I'd have my class read both the original and the new original.
Modern girls would no doubt relate more to the re-telling.
Gemma Hardy is a tough girl. But, then her life has not been easy. Following the death of her beloved uncle, Gemma becomes a sort of Cinderella child, always being reminded of how grateful she should be for having a roof over her head, second or third hand clothing and some food to eat. Her aunt, to say the least disdains her very existence. At the first thought that she might get rid of nine year old Gemma, she takes that opportunity. Gemma is sent to a boarding school for girls. Yes, the education might be better, but Gemma does not have the opportunity to take full advantage of the opportunities provided. She is a working girl, and her chores take priority over her education. Leaving her aunt and being placed in the care of Miss and Mrs. Bryant is no improvement.
Gemma does make one friend, at school. However, that friend departs and Gemma is left alone. When the school is closing, Gemma tries to locate a situation. She finds a position as a nanny in the Orkney islands.
Such a lonely place. And, her charge is wild and uncontrollable. Slowly Gemma makes inroads into building a life, and taking charge of young Nell. Then Nell's guardian, Mr. Sinclair arrives. Life is different. At some point Gemma is attracted to her employer. But, on a day which should be happy, Gemma is hard and cannot be forgiving.
She takes off and leaves her chance of happiness behind. She tells no one of her mission. But things do not go as planned and she finds herself alone and homeless, until she is rescued by Archie. Gemma is brought back to health and eventually takes a position as a nanny to a little boy.
As she begins her new life, Gemma is yearning for an understanding of her past. Following, perhaps a predictable opportunity, Gemma takes that chance and returns to her native land. There she discovers loving family and her history. Upon her return to Scotland she also discovers her future.
The story is a bit modern day Jane Eyre, Cinderella and Oliver Twist. However, through it all, you want to love Gemma, crack her hard exterior and urge her to grab her chance at happiness. It is not until she discovers her past that she is able to truly move forward to her future.
I confess, it has been a long time, since I read Jane Eyre, but with this book, parts of it were coming back to me. However, perhaps, I will be inspired to pull out a copy of that book and read it again.