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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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7557412,297 (3.58)104
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:****
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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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The Flight of Gemma Hardy – Margot Livesey
Audio performance by Davina Porter
3 stars

Gemma Hardy was born in Iceland just after the Second World War. Orphaned early in life, she has no memory of her parents or her homeland. She is raised in Scotland, in reasonable security and contentment by her mother’s brother and his selfish wife. When she is ten years old, her uncle dies suddenly and Gemma becomes an outcast in the only home she has ever known.

Events of the story continue to follow much the same progression as in Jane Eyre. There’s a dismal boarding school experience and the early death of her only friend. Gemma is forced to seek a position providing child care in a private home. A home that is remotely located in the Orkneys, with the required temperamental, mysterious love interest.


………spoilers………………………………




If I had not read Jane Eyre at least a dozen times, I might have given this book 4 stars. It was an easy, entertaining story. Gemma Hardy was a likable character and I was especially interested in her quest to find the Icelandic members of her family. However, the author deliberately chose to imitate the Bronte novel, so comparison is inevitable. And there is no comparison; it doesn’t measure up. Moving the Bronte plot elements to the 20th century felt contrived. Gemma’s boarding school experience in which she is used as an unpaid child laborer seemed unlikely for the early 1960’s. The love affair with the much older Mr. Sinclair had none of the emotional tension of the original. Gemma’s behavior to her erstwhile fiancé was also out of sync with her century. (How likely is it that she would continue to refer to him as ‘Mr. Sinclair’ up to and even following the aborted marriage?)

I couldn’t help thinking that this story would have worked better if it had been set forty years earlier following World War One. Also, some of the best parts of this story were those that completely deviated from the pattern of Jane Eyre. I loved the ghost in the library. It was a shame he wasn’t a bigger feature of the plot. I enjoyed the Orkney setting and I wished Gemma could have spent more time in Iceland with her psychic great-aunt. There was definitely potential here for a truly unique story. I hope Margot Livesey attempts something original in the future.

( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
I started this book having no knowledge that it's the literary equivalent of a cover song: it's a modernized version of Jane Eyre. The fact that I was able to discern this without having read Jane Eyre in over 20 years did not bode well.

I get it - there are just so many stories to tell in this life. Ultimately, every story boils down to either conflict or quest: without one of these, you're just mumbling. So everything could be reduced to a re-telling of something else.

Still, Livesey's reliance on the orphan trope, the structure of Jane's tale, even the re-appearance of the older landed gentleman, is a little much. Given how beautiful her prose is, I think she actually does herself a dis-service as an author by re-telling someone else's tale.

In the end, I am happy for Gemma, but it feels a little forced. Who wouldn't be happy for an orphan who finds family & fortune & love? ( )
  LauraCerone | May 26, 2016 |
Like the classic that inspired it, it's so easy to immerse yourself in this tale. Even though the names, places and era are different, it still evokes Jane Eyre beautifully. I appreciated both the bones of the story and the alterations. ( )
1 vote VictoriaPL | Apr 29, 2016 |
I'd give it another half star if I could! ( )
  mamashepp | Mar 29, 2016 |
I'd give it another half star if I could! ( )
  mamashepp | Mar 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 73 (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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