The Flight of Gemma Hardy

The Flight of Gemma Hardy

by Margot Livesey
3.6 102

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The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

The resonant story of a young woman’s struggle to take charge of her own future, The Flight of Gemma Hardy is a modern take on a classic story—Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre—that will fascinate readers of the Gothic original and fans of modern literary fiction alike, with its lyrical prose, robust characters, and abundant compassion. Set in early 1960s Scotland, this breakout novel from award-winning author Margot Livesey is a tale of determination and spirit that, like The Three Weissmanns of Westport and A Thousand Acres, spins an unforgettable new story from threads of our shared, still-living literary past.

“Gemma is real—it’s as simple as that. And through her eyes we see step by step what it means . . . to take possession of one’s own life.” —David Wroblewski, author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062064240
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/24/2012
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 155,599
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Margot Livesey is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Flight of Gemma Hardy, The House on Fortune Street, Banishing Verona, Eva Moves the Furniture, The Missing World, Criminals, and Homework. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Vogue, and the Atlantic, and she is the recipient of grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. The House on Fortune Street won the 2009 L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award. Born in Scotland, Livesey currently lives in the Boston area and is a professor of fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.


Boston, Massachusetts

Date of Birth:

July 24, 1953

Place of Birth:

Perth, Scotland


B.A. in English and philosophy from the University of York, England

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The Flight of Gemma Hardy 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 102 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why do people feel compelled to give away the whole story in their reviews??????
dhaupt More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
JadeWant More than 1 year ago
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.
AmyELignor1 More than 1 year ago
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!
Bookshelf_Confessions More than 1 year ago
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!
MollyzReviewz More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent read! As a dreamer from Scotland I loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Eagleknits More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
storm11 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best i have read in a long time. I recommend this one for sure.
Houston_Girl More than 1 year ago
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.
fleetfootmax More than 1 year ago
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.
ReadingPatti More than 1 year ago
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.
SophieCA More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oh.....come on....Jane Eyre for today's generation. If you are over 25-30, do not get this book. Get the real deal. This is a ridiculous remake and badly done. How did this get published.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jane Eyre is extraordinary. This book is not. Read the original. The beginning was too much like Cinderella but it was better than the rest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago