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The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
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The Flight of Gemma Hardy (2012)

by Margot Livesey

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8718615,283 (3.54)112
  1. 10
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: The Flight of Gemma Hardy is an updated version of Jane Eyre, set in mid-20th-century Scotland. Read the original to get a fuller understanding of Gemma's choices.
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Showing 1-5 of 84 (next | show all)
The reviews for this book are all over the place. Some think it’s a pale, boring retelling of Jane Eyre while other readers loved it. The comparison isn’t only about Gemma and Jane Eyre, our author was also without a mother at age nine and grew up lonely in Scotland, as Gemma did, reading Jane Eyre from her own father’s library. Obviously her experiences were quite different.

The old adage imitation is the sincerest form of flattery holds true for me, at least with this book. Wuthering Heights is retold in a contemporary setting in Solsbury Hill by Susan Wyler (very popular modernized version with all the heartache you’d expect) and what about Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, a modern version of King Lear? Anyway, I very much enjoyed this story. I thought Gemma was an intelligent headstrong girl. Obviously well-educated thanks to her uncle and without formal schooling, she showed remarkable maturity and resilience.

Gemma’s life is filled with tragedy. We are introduced to Gemma when she is 10 years old, living in her aunt’s home in Scotland. Although she previously lived in Iceland she was born in Scotland, her mother being Scottish and her father an Icelander. When she is young her mother dies after falling and hitting her head on a rock. A few years later her fisherman father drowns. She is taken in by her Uncle Charles and becomes part of the Hardy household in Scotland. She was only 3 years of age when she moved in with the Hardy family. Then Uncle Charles died and Gemma’s place in the household changed. This is the start of the book, how she went from family member to the status of hired help. She was relegated to the kitchen, removed from the family dinner table, wore old, old clothes and was treated shabbily.

When the chance came to send her away to a school her aunt jumped on it. For a smart young lady you would think this would be the ideal escape for Gemma but alas, that was jumping from the pan into the fire. The “working girls” who did not pay tuition were basically slaves. Cleaning, cooking, gardening and their studies came last. It was a horrible situation.

It just seemed to be one thing after another for Gemma but she never lost her determination. Rather than rehash this entire book I’ll say that I enjoyed reading how she overcame many obstacles and fretted for her when something overwhelming cropped up. Oh, another thing I liked about Gemma was her quest for knowledge and her love of birds. There was a large book in her beloved uncle’s study called Birds of the World. She loved looking at the photos and learning where they lived in the world. Her only friend at school noted this love of birds and gifted Gemma with a book about Scottish birds. There are references as she points out curlews, lapwings, grebes, blackbird, curlew, jackdaw and puffins when she is working as an au pair and later as a nanny.

The setting is mostly in Glasgow, a rural setting of Aberfeldy and the Orkney Islands. As I note foodie items in most books I read I can say there are many mentions of food here yet it’s not a foodie book by any means.

This is an author I will most certainly seek out, Margot Livesey can paint a vivid picture. ( )
  SquirrelHead | Jan 25, 2019 |
In this book one follows the plight of the orphaned Gemma Hardy just as one followed Jane in Jane Eyre. Only, the setting is Scotland in the 1960's. Gemma suffers many of the same fates as Jane Eyre only in a more modern series of events. Gemma is sent to a boarding school, becomes a tutor, is engaged to marry and flees. The storyline was well done until the end. I believe the ending was very abrupt and left the reader wanting something more. Thus I have only rated the book with three stars instead of four. ( )
  Rdglady | Nov 20, 2018 |
Boring ( )
  sunsetmo | Sep 16, 2018 |
Beautifully written retelling of Jane Eyre. I was mesmerized for the first two-thirds or so. The final third falls apart: Gemma's reason for running away really doesn't make as much sense as Jane's, and she makes so many foolish decisions in a row that she lost some of my sympathy. But it's still a great read, as anything by Livesey is.

Gemma irritated me a little bit in general with her self-effacement, but then Jane herself has always bugged for the same reason, so I suppose I can't complain about that. On the other hand, I thought that the Helen Burns analog was an improvement on the original, and I did like that Gemma hears her aunt's side of the story.

( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
This book was okay, but I felt that it really dragged at times. I thought some parts could have easily been left out to make the book shorter. And certain parts of the story were really quite depressing. I didn't always agree with the decisions Gemma made, but then again, she was just a teenager! I don't regret reading this book, but I probably wouldn't recommend it to others. ( )
  Aseleener | Mar 24, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 84 (next | show all)
But like a production of “Twelfth Night” where all the characters are played as cowboys or Prohibition-era gangsters, “Gemma Hardy” left me wondering why “Jane Eyre” needs to be resettled in the late 1950s. Livesey makes little of the contrast between the two tales or even the contrast between the two eras. Indeed, Gemma’s life in these small, remote towns seems so much closer to the early 19th century than the mid-20th that I was always startled when an automobile intruded on the scene.

....When an author dons the mantle of a classic, it’s not unreasonable to expect her to reanimate it in some significant way. There’s nothing jarring or silly about this homage (for that, see Sherri Browning Erwin’s “Jane Slayre” with a werewolf bride in the attic), but for all of Live­sey’s intelligent and graceful storytelling, she keeps Gemma Hardy’s flight too close to the ground.
 
"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."
added by Christa_Josh | editLibrary Journal, Catherine Tingelstad (Nov 1, 2011)
 
. “The Flight of Gemma Hardy,” Livesey’s appealing new novel, is, as she has explained, a kind of continued conversation, a “recasting” of both “Jane Eyre” and Livesey’s own childhood. Set mostly in Scotland in the late 1950s and ’60s, the narrative follows the fortunes of a young girl, Gemma Hardy, who is beset by bad luck. ...Livesey is a lovely, fluid writer. There’s much pleasure to be had in her descriptions of neolithic sites in Orkney and, most of all, her abiding affinity for the natural world: “the limpet’s frill of muscle” found while the young Gemma pulls shells off the rocks in a windswept cove, the “gleaming scar” on a beech tree that has lost the branch where a rope swing once hung, the experience of “retrieving two warm eggs from a drowsy red hen.”

It isn’t, however, until the final third of the novel, when Gemma, risking her own life, is forced to leave what she loves and act independently, that “The Flight of Gemma Hardy” becomes its most satisfying self.
 
How do you recast a classic? Follow Margot Livesey's lead in The Flight of Gemma Hardy, a riveting retelling of Jane Eyre that puts the familiar feminist heroine in the pre-feminist world of early 1960s Scotland. The result is distinct and even daring — and far from derivative.

It's a tricky prospect, paying (nearly) modern homage to a piece of literature that was done so right the first time, but from the first few pages, Flight soars on its own writerly wings.
 

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Epigraph
Home is the sailor, home from the sea
And the hunter home from the hill.
—"Requiem," Robert Louis Stevenson
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For Roger Sylvester, 1922-2008
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We did not go for a walk on the first day of the year.
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Book Description
Publication Date: January 24, 2012

When her widower father drowns at sea, Gemma Hardy is taken from her native Iceland to Scotland to live with her kind uncle and his family. But the death of her doting guardian leaves Gemma under the care of her resentful aunt, and it soon becomes clear that she is nothing more than an unwelcome guest at Yew House. When she receives a scholarship to a private school, ten-year-old Gemma believes she's found the perfect solution and eagerly sets out again to a new home. However, at Claypoole she finds herself treated as an unpaid servant.

To Gemma's delight, the school goes bankrupt, and she takes a job as an au pair on the Orkney Islands. The remote Blackbird Hall belongs to Mr. Sinclair, a London businessman; his eight-year-old niece is Gemma's charge. Even before their first meeting, Gemma is, like everyone on the island, intrigued by Mr. Sinclair. Rich (by Gemma's standards), single, flying in from London when he pleases, Hugh Sinclair fills the house with life. An unlikely couple, the two are drawn to each other, but Gemma's biggest trial is about to begin: a journey of passion and betrayal, redemption and discovery, that will lead her to a life of which she's never dreamed.

Set in Scotland and Iceland in the 1950s and '60s, The Flight of Gemma Hardy—a captivating homage to Charlotte BrontË's Jane Eyre—is a sweeping saga that resurrects the timeless themes of the original but is destined to become a classic all its own.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062064223, Hardcover)

When her widower father drowns at sea, Gemma Hardy is taken from her native Iceland to Scotland to live with her kind uncle and his family. But the death of her doting guardian leaves Gemma under the care of her resentful aunt, and it soon becomes clear that she is nothing more than an unwelcome guest at Yew House. When she receives a scholarship to a private school, ten-year-old Gemma believes she's found the perfect solution and eagerly sets out again to a new home. However, at Claypoole she finds herself treated as an unpaid servant.

To Gemma's delight, the school goes bankrupt, and she takes a job as an au pair on the Orkney Islands. The remote Blackbird Hall belongs to Mr. Sinclair, a London businessman; his eight-year-old niece is Gemma's charge. Even before their first meeting, Gemma is, like everyone on the island, intrigued by Mr. Sinclair. Rich (by Gemma's standards), single, flying in from London when he pleases, Hugh Sinclair fills the house with life. An unlikely couple, the two are drawn to each other, but Gemma's biggest trial is about to begin: a journey of passion and betrayal, redemption and discovery, that will lead her to a life of which she's never dreamed.

Set in Scotland and Iceland in the 1950s and '60s, The Flight of Gemma Hardy—a captivating homage to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre—is a sweeping saga that resurrects the timeless themes of the original but is destined to become a classic all its own.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:51 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Overcoming a life of hardship and loneliness, Gemma Hardy, a brilliant and determined young woman, accepts a position as an au pair on the remote Orkney Islands where she faces her biggest challenge yet.

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