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The Flight of Gemma Hardy: A Novel (P.S.) by…
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The Flight of Gemma Hardy: A Novel (P.S.) (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Margot Livesey

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6856413,926 (3.58)97
Member:bookwoman84
Title:The Flight of Gemma Hardy: A Novel (P.S.)
Authors:Margot Livesey
Info:Harper Perennial (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 480 pages
Collections:Your library, Read 2013
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey (2012)

  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 64 (next | show all)
It started out well, and the author can write.

There are only two, nay three things that I didn't like:
1. Mr. Sinclair (Gemma's love interest) is very undeveloped. The author has tried to make him as nuanced as Rochester is, but has tamed his traits so much that the result is... not interesting. E.g. Rochester raises an orphan child that may or may not be his, even though little Adele mostly reminds him of her mother's betrayal. Mr. Sinclair is merely raising his actual niece, no ambiguity there. As the uncle of little Nell he has a responsibility to her; Rochester had none towards Adele, and the same gesture has different weight in a different context.
When Rochester wants to make Jane jealous he all but proposes to Blanche (and in fact he even tells Jane he will marry Blanche in the near future; it's really a sign of Charlotte Bronte's skill that she has managed to make Rochester likable despite his outright lying to Jane). Mr. Sinclair on the other hand is just there, he does have a woman come visit him, together with a few friends, but that's pretty much everything that happens. Rochester dresses as a gypsy and deceives everyone, poor Mr. Sinclair just does not contradict what a random gypsy said about his fortune. And so on, ending with...

2. I'm not going to go into detail here, but Mr. Sinclair's secret is almost laughable compared to Rochester's. What's more important, young Rochester made a mistake and he's still saddled with the results; Mr. Sinclair's wrongdoing (though I don't find it all that wrong) happened twenty years before, and it had nothing to do with his relationship with Gemma. Everything Gemma did after seems like a vast overreaction, and hard to actually take seriously.

3, and the reason why I gave this book two stars
(minor spoiler about Gemma's life after leaving Mr. Sinclair will follow)

Gemma ends up living with an old lady, and her husband who recently had a stroke. And suddenly she feels like going to find her birthplace and her roots *at that very moment*, and she steals money from the old couple to pay for her plane tickets. Because surely the old lady didn't have enough troubles already. I find this gesture downright DESPICABLE, especially as at the moment she stole the money Gemma knew she had no means to return them in the near future (later on she comes across an inheritance, but she didn't know about it at the time). And she doesn't even have any particular qualms about it! She just takes in her stride the fact that yes, I'm a grown-up now, and I have lied and I have stolen (as if being a grown-up entails lying and stealing from others, by default), without showing an ounce of remorse.

So yeah, two stars.
  kaystj | Jul 18, 2015 |
I really enjoyed. Will be curious to see if the book club members liked it. ( )
  INorris | Apr 20, 2015 |
The fact is I'm just baffled by this book. For my the 'why bother' factor was wailing like a siren throughout. Livesey can put sentences together and there was, sort of, a story, albeit it was a pastiche of pretty much everything from [Rebecca] (with no bite) to [The Secret Garden] to about fifty other classics of the high-end 'tension-filled romance' genre. But let's take [Rebecca]. There really is a baddie, a serious baddie, and there really are secrets. In Flight everything turns out to be less than hinted at. Characters really don't develop or change, and some characters actually only seem to change in order to accommodate the story-line The real underlying problem though, is that the book had no underlying pressure fueling it and giving it energy. There was no deeper theme, about the evolution of love into wickedness, as there is in [Rebecca], or the theme of [Jane Eyre] of how a life can be ruined by one heedless decision, no deep need evident to explore anything at all about the human condition. The love affair between the two mains is beyond unconvincing. With an 18 year gap, I am terribly sorry, you really do need to make it clear what the attraction is. It's all the more frustrating when the book is well written. Livesey taught (after my time) at the MFA program I attended and I have to say, this is about the worst novel I've read that a faculty member has written. She may be a very fine teacher, that happens. Also, someone uncritical could enjoy this, say, on a plane ride where you read it and leave it on the seat. *** ( )
1 vote sibyx | Jan 26, 2015 |
Davina Porter’s narration was as always fabulous, the story however I didn't enjoy as much as I had hoped since Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorites and this story was supposed to be inspired by Jane Eyre but there is a huge difference between inspiration and downright word for word story. And Mr. Sinclair is no Mr. Rochester.

I liked the story much better once she got to Iceland, I kind of wish the first half hadn’t been so much like Jane Eyre and had just been Gemma’s story. There were times I didn’t like Gemma much, I understand it was hard for her to trust people because of the way she was treated by people who should have loved her but there were times when people were very, very nice to her and she still couldn’t accept it.

This one was just ok for me; maybe if you aren’t as huge a fan of Jane Eyre as I am you may like it more.

2 ½ Stars ( )
  susiesharp | Sep 16, 2014 |
A great retelling of jane eyre, with some nice updates to make it more believable in the 1960s. ( )
  abbeyhar | Jul 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 64 (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
Dedication
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
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.
Haiku summary

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.

(summary from another edition)

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