A captivating tale, set in Scotland in the early 1960s, that is both an homage to and a modern variation on the enduring classic Jane Eyre. Fate has not been kind to Gemma Hardy. Orphaned by the age of ten, neglected by a bitter and cruel aunt, sent to a boarding school where she is both servant and student, young Gemma seems destined for a life of hardship and loneliness. Yet her bright spirit burns strong. Fiercely intelligent, singularly determined, Gemma overcomes each challenge and setback, growing stronger and more certain of her path. Now an independent young woman with dreams of the future, she accepts a position as an au pair on the remote and beautiful Orkney Islands. But Gemma's biggest trial is about to begin... a journey of passion and betrayal, secrets and lies, redemption and discovery, that will lead her to a life she's never dreamed of.
"Reader, I wanted to love this retelling of Jane Eyre set in the 1960s, but aside from some appealing descriptions of the remote Orkney Islands and a rustic Icelandic village, The Flight of Gemma Hardy offers only sluggish pacing, a lackluster romance, and most unforgivably, a heroine whose alleged pluck instead comes across as self-righteousness. Characters enter and exit as the plot requires, seldom creating strong enough impressions to sustain readers' attention or win their hearts. In 1966, Jean Rhys reinterpreted Bronte's novel as the innovative and haunting Wide Sargasso Sea; Margot Livesey is content to serve up a tepid cup of tea instead of a new take on the original's bracing brew." - Marnie Colton
"Starred Review. Captivating and moving, this book is a wonderful addition to Livesey's body of work." - Publishers Weekly
"This original slant on a classic story line captures the reader's interest and sustains it to the end. Fans of modern interpretations of the classics will particularly enjoy." - Library Journal
"Nicely, touchingly done, and the familiar story exerts its reliably magnetic pull, but fans of Jane Eyre will wonder why." - Kirkus Reveiws
"In The Flight of Gemma Hardy, Margot Livesey offers a new telling of Jane Eyre, for which no contemporary writer is better suited. As always, Livesey's prose is a garden of pleasures: precision here, lyricism there, wit and compassionate insight throughout." - Amy Bloom, author of Away
"The writing is at once wholehearted and razor sharp, but 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. Gemma is real - it's as simple as that. And through her eyes we see step-by-step what it means to stay determined in the face of the world's ceaseless ambiguities - what it means, in other words, to take possession of one's own life." - David Wroblewski, author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
"[T]horoughly engaging and bracingly unsentimental. The prose is meticulous, the tale transporting. Trust me, you will love this book." - Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club and Wit's End
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Rated of 5
Companion to a classic
There is no disguising that “The Flight of Gemma Hardy” is a re-telling of the classic novel “Jane Eyre”; in fact, the author makes that clear before the reader even begins. There is also no doubt that our heroine Gemma is Margot Livesey’s own creation, a resilient character that I found likeable right from the start. Like Jane, her choices may not always be the wisest, but there is no whining, just determination to move forward. I was happy to travel along with her.
The characters, including the cruel aunt and the moody hero with a secret, the settings, including the dismal boarding school and the large stately home of Gemma’s employer, echo the original, and are all well-imagined; the storyline, though not as intense as the original, is just as absorbing. The 1960’s modern time frame is well-chosen. (I am not sure that this would work as well set in the age of the internet and cell phones with a GPS app, but I wouldn’t mind reading an attempt by some talented author.)
This may not turn out to be a new classic, but it certainly makes a worthy companion to Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre.”
Margot Livesey grew up in a boys private school in the Scottish Highlands
where her father taught, and her mother, Eva, was the school nurse. After taking
a B.A. in English and philosophy at the University of York in England she spent
most of her twenties working in shops and restaurants and learning to write. Her
first book, a collection of stories called Learning By Heart, was
published by Penguin Canada in 1986. Since then Livesey has published several novels, including
Homework, Criminals, The Missing World, Eva Moves
the Furniture, Banishing Verona and The House on Fortune
Margot Livesey has taught at Boston University, Bowdoin College, Brandeis University, Carnegie Mellon, Cleveland State, Emerson College, the Iowa Writers Workshop, Tufts ...
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