Book: The Flight of Gemma Hardy
Author: Margot Livesey
Genre: Romance/Coming of Age Novel
Summary: 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 as 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. - Harper Perennial, 2012.
I bought this book back in Colorado when I was at an independent bookshop. Supporting independent bookstores is one of my important reminders in life as without bookstores, I wouldn't have access to books in the traditional sense. I always shop at brick and mortar stores unless the book isn't available anywhere else.
Part of the marketing on the book is that it's a retelling of Jane Eyre. I have to admit that this is the reason I bought the book since I liked Jane Eyre. It's one of my favorite classic novels so I had confidence that I would enjoy it; and enjoy it I did.
It's definitely a retelling and the bare bones of the Jane Eyre novel are there - the tormenting cousins, the humiliation at the private school, etc. There are other specific pieces of the novel that are not recreated in this book, which creates a healthy balance. While this story takes places in the 1960s and 1970s, it takes on more modern tones and twists certain aspects of the original novel to bring it up to date.
The romance between Gemma and Mr. Sinclair is charming and sweet - I really enjoyed in particular how they are reunited. However, I didn't enjoy how Livesey aged up her version of Mr. Rochester to make the the age difference even more stark. I understand that in the original novel, the age difference is a tad severe and it was normal back then. Now, in the 1960s-1970s, it gets into slightly icky territory. Even so, I still enjoyed the relationship Gemma had with Mr. Sinclair and it was one of the highlights of the novel.
Gemma herself as a character definitely grows as a human being and a woman; her character in particular changes as she matures and discovers what is important to her. She is a wiser character by the end of it. I enjoyed reading her story very much and I'm glad I could "see" her grow. The reader can easily empathize with her and can't help but root for her as she goes through her various trials.
By the time you reach the end of the book, you wish it would keep going so you can see how everything else resolves. The final scene is especially romantic and I'll remember it for a long time.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys coming of age stories with a dash of romance. I think anyone who has read and loved Jane Eyre would definitely enjoy it as well.
Besides the expanded age difference, I had no qualms with the story and I'm glad I read it. It's going to be one of my modern favorites for sure.
I give The Flight of Gemma Hardy an A+.
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Thanks for reading!