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The Flight of Gemma Hardy

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Overview

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 at 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 ...

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Overview

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 at 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Sarah Towers
…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…Livesey is drawn to literary gambles, and there's no question that modeling her new book on a classic is a risky move. For the most part, she succeeds. It's a delight to follow the careful dovetailing of the two novels…Livesey is a lovely, fluid writer.
—The New York Times Book Review
People
“Livesey delivers a suspenseful, curl-up-by-the-fire romance with a willfully determined protagonist who’s worthy of her literary role model.”
Atlantic Monthly
“Livesey follows Brontë‘s form, but so convincingly does she create her own character’s life and surroundings that the original soon recedes, its story a beloved, familiar body dressed in an entirely new and vibrant wardrobe.”
Marie Claire
“In this modern day retelling of Jane Eyre - trade horses for private jets - novelist Margot Livesey pays homage to Brontë‘s literary classic.”
Sarah Towers
“A delight....Livesey is a lovely, fluid writer.”
Liza Nelson
“A cunning adaptation.”
Sam Sacks
“Absorbing….Ms. Livesey writes lovely, understated prose…[her] treks through the novel’s pleasing natural landscapes…are almost as engaging as her navigation of Gemma’s restless psyche.”
People Magazine
"Livesey delivers a suspenseful, curl-up-by-the-fire romance with a willfully determined protagonist who’s worthy of her literary role model."
Connie Ogle
“Jane Eyre gets a terrific modern makeover….Livesey works some sort of magic in The Flight of Gemma Hardy, which is too entertaining to be superfluous, too wise in its understanding of human nature to be a mere retread.”
Meredith Maran
“Livesey has pulled off the near-impossible task that the homage begs an author to do: create an original, fresh work that shines in its own light, while bringing an established, esteemed work to the attention of new readers, and showing off previously unseen facets to its fans….”
Kristin Ohlson
“Marvelous....Gemma Hardy is one of those page turners in which you occasionally have to wrest yourself away from the plot to admire the language.”
Lisa Shea
“A brilliantly paced contemporary adventure about a headstrong orphan’s struggle to claim a place for her generous heart in a secret-laden, sometimes loveless world.”
David Wroblewski
“The portrait of a delicate, iron-willed girl, an orphan and a heroine in the grand tradition…. 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.”
People
“Livesey delivers a suspenseful, curl-up-by-the-fire romance with a willfully determined protagonist who’s worthy of her literary role model.”
Kirkus Reviews
A clever orphan girl, mistreated by relatives, then sent to suffer cruelly at boarding school, finds heartbreak and eventual heartsease with a brooding older man. Sound familiar? "Neither my autobiography nor a retelling of Jane Eyre," says Livesey (The House on Fortune Street, 2008, etc.) about her new novel in the foreword. However, this story bears more than a passing resemblance to Charlotte Brontë's immortal classic. Poignantly narrated, Livesey's tale opens in late-1950s Scotland where, after her uncle's death, harsh new conditions are imposed on 10-year-old Gemma by her cartoonishly callous aunt and cousins. Sent to horrible Claypoole School as a working pupil, Gemma becomes a lonely, bullied drudge until befriended by asthmatic Miriam, whose sad death gives Gemma the power to endure. After the school's closure she moves, now almost 18, to a remote Orkney island, to work as an au pair caring for Nell, the unruly niece of taciturn banker Hugh Sinclair. Love and a surprise proposal follow, and it's here the story parts company most noticeably and least convincingly from Jane Eyre. Shameful secrets, foreign travel and a quest fulfilled follow, before Gemma finally establishes a future on her own terms. Nicely, touchingly done, and the familiar story exerts its reliably magnetic pull, but fans of Jane Eyre will wonder why.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062064233
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/26/2012
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 188,869
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Margot Livesey

Margot Livesey's acclaimed novels include The House on Fortune Street (winner of the L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award) and Eva Moves the Furniture. She lives in the Boston area and is a Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Emerson College.

Biography

Margot Livesey is the award-winning author of a story collection, Learning by Heart, and of the novels Homework, Criminals, The Missing World, and Eva Moves the Furniture, which was a New York Times Notable Book, an Atlantic Monthly Best Book of the Year, and a PEN/Winship finalist. Born in Scotland, she currently lives in the Boston area, where she is writer in residence at Emerson College.

Author biography courtesy of Henry Holt and Company.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Livesey:

"My worst job was a very brief stint at a Hare Krishna factory in Toronto, packing incense. The combination of compulsory prayers and of having my friends get out their handkerchiefs whenever I entered a room soon made me give notice. My favorite job was working as a cleaner at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London. We managed to do the work in half the time we were paid for and I loved pushing my broom around the galleries, getting to look at the art day after day."

"The first Americans I ever met were a family who came to teach for a year at the boys' school where my father taught. They invited us over for New Year's Eve and instead of the usual festivities spent the evening showing us slides of their very extensive holidays in Yosemite. Ever since I've had a mild aversion to slide shows and I still haven't been to Yosemite."

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    1. Hometown:
      Boston, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 24, 1953
    2. Place of Birth:
      Perth, Scotland
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English and philosophy from the University of York, England

Read an Excerpt

The Flight of Gemma Hardy

A Novel
By Margot Livesey

HarperCollins

Copyright © 2012 Margot Livesey
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780062064226


Chapter One

We did not go for a walk on the first day of the year. The Christmas
snow had melted, and rain had been falling since dawn, darkening
the shrubbery and muddying the grass, but that would not have
stopped my aunt from dispatching us. She believed in the benefits of
fresh air for children in all weather. Later, I understood, she also
enjoyed the peace and quiet of our absence. No, the cause of our not
walking was my cousin Will, who claimed his cold was too severe to
leave the sitting room sofa, but not so bad that he couldn't play cards.
His sister Louise, he insisted, must stay behind for a game of racing
demon.
I overheard these negotiations from the corridor where I loitered,
holding my aunt's black shoes, freshly polished, one in each hand.
"In that case," said my aunt, "Veronica and Gemma can walk to the
farm to collect the eggs."
"Oh, must I, Mum?" said Veronica. "She's such a—"
The door to my uncle's study was only a few feet away, across the corridor.
Hastily I opened it, stepped inside, and shut out whatever came
next. Not long ago this room had been the centre of the house, a place
brightened by my uncle's energy, made tranquil by his concentration as
he worked on his sermons, but last February, skating alone on the river
at dusk, he had fallen through the ice, and now I was the only one who
spent any time here, or who seemed to miss him. Just inside the door was
a pyramid of cardboard boxes, the remains of my aunt's several recent
purchases. But beyond the boxes the room was as he had left it. His pen
still lay on the desk beside the sermon he'd been preparing. At the top of
the page he had written: "Sunday, 16 February a.d. 1958. No man is an
island." A pile of books still sat on the floor next to his chair; the dead
coals of his last fire crumbled in the grate. To my childish fancy, the
room mourned him in a way that no member of his family did, certainly
not my aunt, who dined out two or three times a week, played bridge
for small sums of money, and since the season started, rode to hounds
whenever she could. At breakfast that morning, she had said I must no
longer call her Aunt but ma'am, like Betty the housemaid.
Setting the shoes on the floor and trying not to imagine how
Veronica had finished her sentence—such a copycat? such a moron?—I
read over my uncle's opening paragraph. "We each begin as an island,
but we soon build bridges. Even the most solitary person has, perhaps
without knowing it, a causeway, a cable, a line of stepping-stones,
connecting him or her to others, allowing for the possibility of
communication and affection." As I read the familiar phrases I pictured
myself as a small, verdant island in a grey sea; when the tide went out,
a line of rocks surfaced, joining me to another island, or the mainland.
The image bore no relation to my present life—neither my aunt nor my
cousins wanted any connection with me—but I cherished the hope
that one day my uncle's words would prove true. Someone would
appear at the other end of the causeway.
I stepped over to the bookcase and pulled down one of my favorite
books: Birds of the World. Each page showed a bird in its natural
habitat—a puffin with its fat, gaudy beak, peering out of a burrow,
a lyre-bird spreading its tail beneath a leafy tree—accompanied by
a description. Usually I read curled in the armchair beside the fire,
conjuring an imaginary warmth from the cold embers, but today, not
wanting to reveal my presence by turning on the light, I settled myself
on the window-seat. Pulling the heavy green curtain around me, I flew
away into the pictures.
Long before Veronica's remark, even before my uncle's death, I
would have said that the only thing I shared with my oldest cousin was
an address: Yew House, Strathmuir, Perthshire, Scotland. At fourteen,
Will was a thick-necked, thick-thighed boy who for the most part
ignored me. Sometimes, when he came upon me in the corridor or the
kitchen, an expression of such frank surprise erupted across his face
that I could only assume he had forgotten who I was and was trying to
guess. A servant? Too small. A burglar? Too noisy. A guest? Too badly
dressed. I had seen the same expression on my uncle's face when he
watched Will play football, as if he were wondering how this hulking
ruffian could be his son. But their blue eyes and long-lobed ears left no
doubt of their kinship. My uncle had once shown me a photograph of
himself with his brother, Ian, who had died in his early twenties, and
my mother, Agnes, who had died in her late twenties. "Thank goodness
she was spared the Hardy ears," he had said.
With Louise and Veronica, however, I had a history of affection.
Until last summer the three of us had attended the village school, walking
the mile back and forth together. Although Louise was two years
older, I had often helped her with her arithmetic homework. I had also
endeared myself by giving her my turns on Ginger, the family pony,
an act of pure self-interest that she took as a favour. But in July my
aunt had announced that her daughters, like their brother, would go
to school in the nearby town of Perth. Suddenly they had other friends,
and I walked to school alone. Meanwhile the dreaded Ginger had been
sold, and Louise now had her own horse. She had tried to convert me
to her equine cult by lending me Black Beauty and National Velvet. So
long as I was reading I understood her enthusiasm, but as soon as I was
in the presence of an actual horse, all teeth and hooves and dusty hair,
I was once again baffled.
As for Veronica, who was only six months my senior, she and I
had been good friends until she too developed alien passions. Now
she was no longer interested in playing pirates, or staging battles
between the Romans and the Scots. All her attention was focused on
fashion. She spent hours studying her mother's magazines and going
through her wardrobe. She refused to wear green with blue, brown
with black. Any violation of her aesthetic caused her deep distress.
When my aunt bought a suit she didn't approve of, Veronica retired
to bed for two days; my appearance, in her sister's cast-offs, was a
kind of torture. Her father had teased her about these preoccupations
in a way that held them in check. Without him, she too had
become a fanatic.
Despite these changes I had, until the previous week, believed that
Louise and Veronica were my friends, but the events of Christmas
Eve had forced me to reconsider. For as long as I could remember,
the three of us had spent that afternoon running in and out of each
others bedrooms, getting ready for the party given by the owners of
the local distillery. Last year I had drunk too much of the children's
punch and won a game that involved passing an orange from person
to person without using your hands; I had been looking forward to
defending my victory. But on the morning of the twenty-fourth, when
I had asked Louise if I could borrow her blue dress again, my aunt had
paused in buttering her toast.
"What do you need a dress for, Gemma?"
"It's the Buchanans' party tonight. Don't you remember, Aunt?"
I jumped up to retrieve the invitation from the mantelpiece where it
had stood for several weeks and held it out to her. "Yes," said my aunt,
"and who is this addressed to? The Hardy family. That means Will and
the girls and me." She reached for the marmalade. "You'll stay here
and help Mrs. Marsden. You can start by doing the washing-up."
"Anyway I won't lend you the dress," Louise added. "You'd just spill
something on it."
If she had sounded angry I would have argued, but like her mother,
she spoke as if I were barely worth the air that carried her words.
Without further ado the two of them turned to talking about where they
would ride that day. Abandoning my toast, I marched out of the room.
Mrs. Marsden, the housekeeper, was the only member of the household
whose behaviour towards me had not changed after my uncle's
death. She continued to treat me with the same briskness she had
always shown. She had arrived in the village the year after I did and
rented the cottage on the far side of the paddock. Then my aunt had
an operation—she can't have any more babies, Louise announced
cheerfully—and during her convalescence Mrs. Marsden had become
a fixture at Yew House. She had grown up in the Orkneys and could,
sometimes, be lured into telling stories about the Second World War,
or seals and mermaids. Helping her, I told myself, was infinitely
preferable to being a pariah at the party.
But as I watched Louise and Veronica trying on dresses, ironing,
and doing their hair, I had felt increasingly left out. Although Mrs.
Marsden's own wardrobe consisted of drab skirts and twinsets, she
was regarded as an excellent judge of fashion, and the two girls ran in
and out of the kitchen, asking, Which necklace? The blue shoes or the
black? When I momentarily forgot myself and seconded her in urging
the blue, Louise did not even glance in my direction, and I saw her
nudge Veronica when she thanked me. Suddenly I was no good even
for praise. By the time they came in to display themselves one final
time, I was peeling chestnuts for the stuffing and determined not to
utter another word, but that didn't stop me from staring.
In the last year Louise, as visitors often remarked, had blossomed.
She carried her new breasts around like a pair of deities seeking rightful
homage. Privately I called them Lares and Penates, after the Roman
household gods. Veronica was, like me, still flat as a board, but her lips
were full and her hair was thick and wavy. In their finery, with their
glittering necklaces and handbags, the two sisters could have been on
their way to the Lord Mayor's Ball. That Louise could scarcely walk in
her high heels, that Veronica had applied so much of her mother's rouge
that she seemed to have a fever, only heightened the transformation.
"You both look very nice," pronounced Mrs. Marsden. "The green
is most becoming, Louise. Veronica, your hair is lovely."
I was reaching for another chestnut as my aunt sailed in, wearing
blue velvet, her golden hair piled high. "My gorgeous girls," she said,
putting an arm around each. She was still praising them when Will
appeared. At once she released her daughters. "My dashing young man."
None of them seemed to notice that my uncle was missing. The
previous year, when I wasn't passing oranges and playing games, I had
watched him as he danced. Later, from memory, I had drawn a picture
of him, looking like a Highland chieftain in his kilt and sporran; it had
stood on his bookshelf until my aunt threw it on the fire. Now he was
gone, and all they could think about was their fancy clothes. In my
fury the knife slipped from the chestnut into my finger. My gasp drew
a flurry of attention.
"Hold your hand above your head," ordered Mrs. Marsden.
"Move the chestnuts," said my aunt.
"Bloody idiot," said Will, snickering at the double meaning.
His sisters made noises of disgust until my aunt hushed them. "Let
the dogs out last thing," she told me. "And be sure to leave the porch
light on."
Heels clicking, skirts swishing, they disappeared down the corridor.
Mrs. Marsden bandaged my finger and said she would finish the chestnuts.
She must have felt sorry for me, because she told a story about an
Italian prisoner of war who had been brought to the Orkneys in 1942
and fallen in love with a local girl. He couldn't speak English, so he
courted her by singing arias. After the war he was sent back to Naples.
"We all thought we'd seen the last of him," said Mrs. Marsden. "But a
year later Fiona heard a familiar voice. She looked out of her bedroom
window and there he was, kneeling in the road, singing and holding a
ring."
By seven-thirty everything that could be prepared for the next day's
dinner was ready. Mrs. Marsden untied her apron with a flourish and
wished me Merry Christmas.
"Where are you going?" I said stupidly.
"Home. I have to get ready for tomorrow."
"Can't you stay?" I imitated Veronica, opening my eyes wide and
clasping my hands. "We can play cards, or watch television. You could
have a drink."
Mrs. Marsden stopped buttoning her coat at my second suggestion—
she did not have a television—but at my third she continued. On
several occasions I had overheard my aunt complaining to her that a
newly purchased bottle of gin or sherry was almost empty. Once Mrs.
Marsden had rashly retaliated by mentioning Will. Now she told me
not to talk nonsense and picked up her handbag. With a creak of the
door she was gone.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey Copyright © 2012 by Margot Livesey. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 101 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(32)

4 Star

(29)

3 Star

(23)

2 Star

(6)

1 Star

(11)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 101 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2012

    Reviews

    Why do people feel compelled to give away the whole story in their reviews??????

    27 out of 31 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 24, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    One for your permanent library, that you will not soon forget

    Gemma Hardy was born in 1948 in a small Icelandic village, she lost her parents and the kindly uncle who took her in and brought her to Scotland, the land of her mother. She was sent away by a bitter aunt to be treated like a slave under the guise of scholarship, to be mistreated but to grow in spite of those who would keep her down. At seventeen she takes a job as an au pair to an orphan Nell on the outreaching Scottish Islands known as the Orkneys, here she will encounter a fork in her road of life, here her quest will take on new directions. Her journeys will take her far, they will teach her lessons about life, love and hope. She will be a teacher herself as well as a student, they will introduce her to people who will change her life, who will become another part of her as she continues searching for herself and to those whom she belongs. They will show her the right and the wrong ways of living, of loving, of caring. She will meet people on her journey that she will try to but never forget, who will be a catalyst and an anchor and perhaps the albatross of failure. She will make errors on this pilgrimage, errors that she wouldn’t forgive in others, errors that will farther the lessons of who she is and who she will become. Gemma knows that she was not born Gemma, and in her exploration to find who she was, will she also find who she is, will she be ever searching or will she finally find peace and most importantly the home she longs for.
    Margot Livesey was a new author to me before I opened these pages and I’m so glad that I did. She brings to life a recent history of a girl who I couldn’t wait to find out more about, the timeline seems earlier than the turbulent 60’s here in the states, to a more bucolic existence in rural Scotland and eventually to Iceland where her imagery will come to life with her words and her story is epic as well as prosaic as she introduces us to Gemma and we fall in love with her spirit and her determination. Gemma is not the only character in the novel and Ms. Livesey gives each one their own history in a way that makes us know them well. Her dialogue is easy to read and yet it takes us to places most of us will never travel where we will see clearly through her words. This is a coming of age story, a love story, a tragedy, a comedy and a romance all in one neat package. Speaking of packaging it was the cover design and the title that drew me to this novel in the first place.
    So if you’re looking for something you will not soon forget, a drama that will stay with you, a must read that will fill your personal library shelves for years to be pulled out again and again to revisit, look no farther. This mist read will certainly be shelved among my favorites as well. Thank you Ms. Livesey for one heck of a trip, now where will you take me next.

    26 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2011

    Amazing

    I have just finished reading an advanced copy of this book and found it to be a beautiful and entertaining story. It's a modern day (1950s-1960s) version of Jane Eyre, so anyone who loves the story as much as I do will enjoy this book. Though I never heard of this author before I plan on reading her other books.

    17 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2012

    Really enjoyed this book!

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was concerned and hesitant about my choice because of the many references to Jane Eyre, one of my all time favorites. However, I feel this story was well written and easily stands on its own merits. I'm looking forward to reading other books by this arthur. Well worth the time.

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 24, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Stunningly Beautiful!

    As all readers know, the beauty, tragedy, inspiration, and loveliness that came from the original Jane Eyre is something that many over the years have tried to imitate or duplicate. Seeing as that you would have to be a remarkable writer to even touch the magic that Charlotte Bronte created, all that can be said is that THIS is a remarkable writer. This contemporary retelling based loosely on the original is filled with characters that the reader will remember far into the future, perhaps with readers one day comparing the two when Ms. Livesey’s version joins the first in literary history.

    Gemma Hardy’s incredibly kind uncle was full of compassion and love for the young girl. He was the one who stepped-up when Gemma’s parents met their odd fates. In Iceland, in her home by the beautiful sea, Gemma lost her mother when she took a fall and hit her head while protecting Gemma; and her father was lost when he went out on his boat for work and the boat came back without him, drowning in the ice-cold sea. Gemma’s uncle was a savior but, unfortunately, her tragedy did not stop there. When her uncle was skating by himself on the frozen river near his home he fell through the ice and succumbed to the reaper, as well. And when that accident happened, Gemma’s aunt and cousins turn into the nastiest people on the face of the earth.

    Gemma finds freedom, at first, by being accepted into a boarding school called Claypoole - far away from the horror and pain she left behind with her so-called family. Claypoole looks lovely from he outside. Unfortunately, upon entering, Gemma sees her lot in life; she will simply be a slave, bullied by teachers and students while she tries her best to fight her way through yet another tragic chapter of her life. This fiercely intelligent young girl finds even more determination when Cecil, the library ghost, appears, and she ends up growing up with her spine straight and her mind firmly focused on having a life of her own.

    From the dark, desolate hallways of Claypoole to the amazing au pair job Gemma accepts with the Sinclair’s on an island where the Orkneys - Gemma’s favorite bird is honored - she finds herself a part of an odd family unit. With her strength and determination intact, she falls for a type of man who is the owner of secrets, yet he is also the owner of a heart that perhaps young Gemma can one day own.

    Every scene is monumental in its own way. The characters are so enticing, the reader simply does not want to put this book down. The contemporary feel flows quite easily with the memories of the original Jane Eyre. Gemma goes from abused girl to a woman who finds redemption, love, and peace at last.

    An amazing book filled with such beautifully written locales that one can actually smell the scent of the sea; and a girl who is impossible not to fall in love with as she overcomes trials that the rest of us can hardly imagine. A MUST READ!

    9 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 21, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Set in 1950-60s Scotland, a wonderful sense of place, Gemma, dau

    Set in 1950-60s Scotland, a wonderful sense of place, Gemma, daughter of a Scottish mother and an Icelandic father, both die young, leaving Gemma with her Uncle. He also dies and leaves Gemma to her cruel aunt and her nasty kids. She applies for a scholarship at Claypool boarding school where she is sent. She finds herself working in the kitchen and doing housework without pay more often than sitting in on her classes. The boarding school goes bankrupt and Gemma must once again try to find a home for herself. Gemma excels in her studies. She manages to land an au pair job on the Orkney Islands, where she minds a disorganized and haphazard niece for the mysterious London banker Mr. Sinclair. Gemma is an interesting, sympathetic character, strong yet vulnerable. In spite of her unlucky drawl again and again, her character rises above and will inspire you.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 16, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I haven’t read Jane Eyre, yeah, I know, you can’t be

    I haven’t read Jane Eyre, yeah, I know, you can’t believe me. But I live in the Philippines, and we’re not required to study English Classic Literatures, except when you majored in it in college. So, I have nothing to compare “The Flight of Gemma Hardy” to.

    Even though this book is a tribute to Bronte’s Jane Eyre, I find myself falling for this book’s charm alone. I don’t need to compare it with the original classic, because this one is not an old classic, but rather a retelling of a great classic in another way. It’s something of a modern and revitalizing tale that is wonderful in its own way.

    Every scene in the book is monumental and heart-breaking. The author’s writing is compelling and has this wonderful flow that the story is not forced at all. Iceland and Scotland, complete with their history and geography was also vividly described that I find it easy to picture the places and bring myself back into the 50’s and 60’s time.

    The characters are unique in their own way. Some of them, you might hate, but this only makes the story real and engaging. The plot is filled with twist and emotions.

    Gemma Hardy’s life was no other. She lost both her dear parents and even her uncle who took care of her after her parent’s death has suffered the same fate with the reaper. Unfortunately for Gemma, life was never as she knows it when her aunt and cousins showed that they are not nice at all. And a whole lot of adventure, tragedy and learning sprout in Gemma’s journey from a young girl into a full grown woman.

    I instantly liked Gemma Hardy from the very first page. Although her life was sad and full of tragedy, her little light of hope can’t help but shine through in everything she’s been true.

    “The Flight of Gemma Hardy” has its own beauty, inspiration and tragedy which it could be proud of. I’m glad to be part of Gemma’s journey of passion and betrayal, secrets, lies, learning and growth, dreams and friendship.

    Ms. Margot Livesey is another brilliant contemporary writer and “The Flight of Gemma hardy” is another brilliant masterpiece.

    Highly Recommended!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A Masterful Retelling!

    So. I've NEVER read <em>Jane Eyre</em>. I know, I know. What planet am I from to have NEVER read Bronte's novel? Surprisingly enough, I'm from here on planet Earth. I've been in the dark ages when it comes to some of Bronte's work, but no longer! I LOVED <em>Jane Eyre</em>. Bronte's work is splendid and captivating and swept me away instantly! As big as the novel is, I thought it would take me weeks to get it read. Nope. TWO days. I was that engrossed in the story. I stayed up until 2 or 3 am reading it, and before I knew it, I was finished. Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester, and even Eyre's crotchety old aunt are amazing characters! Each one was filled with complexity and blew me away! I could feel myself transform into Jane Eyre. I felt all her troubles and her emotions as if they were mine. P-O-W-E-R-F-U-L!!! I am going back and seeking out ALL of Ms. Bronte's work to add to my forever collection. Now, on to Margot Livesey's <em>The Flight Of Gemma Hardy</em>. A Jane Eyre retelling, definitely. Just a good as Ms. Bronte's skills, Ms. Livesey sweeps the reader into a world of greatness as she portrays life through the eyes of Gemma Hardy. Swept away once again, I had this book finished in less than 3 days. Gemma's story transformed me, as I took flight among the characters. Gemma and Sinclair are very much like Jane and Rochester. Like Eyre, Hardy was filled with emotions and twists that left in awe through out the story. After reading Eyre, it was hard to think that someone could create a story as wonderful as it, but Livesey has done it. Her skills are as masterful as Bronte's and I loved the portrayal of Gemma. Gemma is orphaned much like Jane was, but with Gemma, she spreads her wings, and takes flight in a whole new way. I loved it. I don't want to spoil the story for everyone, so I won't go much further. Watching Gemma going from being an orphan to accepting her life and making friendships, really opened my eyes. I loved watching Gemma blossom and mature. If you love Bronte's work, then this is no doubt a book that you will want to add to your collection. If you've never read Charlotte Bronte's work before, then take flight with Gemma Hardy and dive into the works of a wonderfully talented, incredibly skilled author. You'll love Ms. Livesey's work and make her book a part of your forever collection. I am now a fan of Ms. Livesey and I hope to see more modern day portrayals of famous novels from this masterful author! This review originated at Reviews By Molly in part with a blog tour.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Very good breakout novel

    Margot Livesey's "The Flight of Gemma Hardy" is the story set in the 1960's of a girl who grew up in both Iceland and Scotland prior to the death of her parents. A Scottish uncle takes her in and raises her with as much love as he had for his own children, but then the beloved uncle dies. The aunt intensely dislikes poor Gemma, making her even less than a servant at home, then, when the time is right, sending Gemma to a bleak boarding school. At the school, Gemma is a working girl; she cooks, cleans, and does other chores to pay for her keep there.

    Perhaps a year before Gemma would have graduated from the school, it closes because of lack of funds. Gemma then takes a job as a nanny in a remote part of Scotland. She loves the job and the family, but she runs away and takes another job. It seems that every time Gemma finds happiness, something causes her to run from it.

    Gemma is an interesting, sympathetic character, strong yet vulnerable. Her one failing is what I stated above: whenever she seems to find happiness, she runs from it. The novel is very well-written. The style was strong yet vulnerable, just like Gemma. I wanted to keep going to see if she would find happiness and not run from it!

    There are comparisons between this novel and Bronte's "Jane Eyre." It's been too many years since I've read "Jane Eyre." "The Flight of Gemma Hardy" intrigued me enough to want to pull my ancient copy of "Jane Eyre" down off the shelf and read it.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2012

    Jane Eyre is my favorite book of all time, so of course this sto

    Jane Eyre is my favorite book of all time, so of course this storyline could normally appeal to me. But this is Jane without the passion, completely void of emotion. Minutes after her best and only friend dies, she's enjoying a meal and thinking about food. It's hard to even like a character whose flat affect is so predominant.

    The author fails to develop the relationship between Gemma and Hugh. Their reunion at the end completely falls flat. It's like two acquaintances met up for lunch on an ordinary day, not two suffering lovers who had been separated for an entire year at long last laying eyes on each other again.

    My main criticism is the stolen storyline. If Livesey had openly stated that this was a retelling of J.E., all would have been well. If Charlotte Bronte had been mentioned in the acknowledgements, then credit would have been given. But apparently Livesey has been reported to say the opposite--that this is not a retelling of J.E. Could've fooled me. I'm surprised a publisher would even take this story.

    For those who care, this version of the story loses some of its innocence, with a few pregnancies out of wedlock and other such situations. Language is thankfully kept to a minimum. The Mary and Diana of this story, named Hannah and Pauline, are lesbians--something that would have been a scandal in this time period, but was accepted in full Glee fashion by the characters in the book.

    Incidentally, Gemma uses the name "Jean" when she runs away. Jane, Gemma, Jean. Hmmmmm....

    Livesey is a good writer, but the thievery of this one is just unforgivable.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 4, 2012

    Just passable.

    Rather inane and shallow. Characters are so one dimensional one just can't work up much sympathy for them. As an attempt to bring Jane Eyer into the present, it was entirely unsatisfactory, but would make a fairly undemanding read on a rainy afternoon; especially if you have never read the real Jane Eyre.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2012

    The flight of Gemma Hardy

    Excellent read! As a dreamer from Scotland I loved it!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2012

    Well written, but...

    This book is very well written, and I do recommend it. The story of a young woman struggling against enormous odds to find out about her past and to discover her place in the world is timeless. However, the first half of the book borrows so much from the classic, Jane Eyre, even down to individual scenes, that it could in one sense almost be considered plagiarism. The second half of the book is much better, though, and I found the ending very satisfying. I would like to read some more of this author's books.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2012

    Good book, but

    I love Jane Erye so i loved the story in this book. It paralleled the original nicely. 95% of the time i loved the author's writing/ writing style but 5% of the time it was some what difficult to follow or details were lacking in critical scenes. I also would have liked a clearer ending as the original provided. The desciption of the various country sides was exceptional. Overall it was a good book and i enjoyed it though i am not sure i would read her other novels.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I love this book. A modern day take on Jane Eyre. I love the wri

    I love this book. A modern day take on Jane Eyre. I love the writing and the characters and the story. I want to read more of Margot's books. For those who love Jane Eyre, should read this book.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 29, 2012

    Entertaining reading

    For anyone to take on the challenge of parallelling Jane Eyre when there are so many fans of the original is courageous. This book does a creditable job of evoking the original characters, with its own deeviations. a talented author. Making the characters her own while preserving the Gothic feeling is Ms. Livesey forte.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2012

    Loved it

    One of the best i have read in a long time. I recommend this one for sure.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2012

    Loved it!

    I thought this was a great adaptation of Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre is one of my many favorite books and Gemma Hardy embraces that. If you love Jane Eyre like I do then you'll enjoy this read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2012

    Recommended

    This is supposedly a re-imaging of the classic, "Jane Eyre", and many of the elements are there. Gemma is an orphan forced to make her way in the world who is lucky enough to find a position as the governess to the ward of wealthy business man. However, there are many modern twists as Gemma's primary motivated has always been to learn about her dead parents and her early life in Iceland where she had been given a different name.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2012

    Wonderful Contemporary version of Jane Eyre!

    Being a huge fan of Jane Eyre, I have every version of the movies and many different editions and retellings of the story. I am so excited to add this book to my collection. It is just different enough from the original and adds a refreshing modern take on the Jane Eyre tale. But all the essentials are still there. I highly recommend this to other Jane Eyre fans! What a fabulous read!! Well done Margot Livesey!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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