Sunday, January 8, 2012
THE FLIGHT OF GEMMA HARDY by Margot Livesey
A captivating tale, set in Scotland in the early 1960s, that is both an homage to and a modern variation on the enduring classic Jane Eyre.
Fate has not been kind to Gemma Hardy. Orphaned by the age of ten, neglected by a bitter and cruel aunt, sent to a boarding school where she is both servant and student, young Gemma seems destined for a life of hardship and loneliness. Yet her bright spirit burns strong. Fiercely intelligent, singularly determined, Gemma overcomes each challenge and setback, growing stronger and more certain of her path. Now an independent young woman with dreams of the future, she accepts a position as an au pair on the remote and beautiful Orkney Islands.
But Gemma's biggest trial is about to begin...a journey of passion and betrayal, secrets and lies, redemption and discovery, that will lead her to a life she's never dreamed of.
I don't normally like books inspired by classics because I have read too many horrible Jane Austen knock-offs. But I was interested in reading a Jane Eyre inspired novel.
The story stays fairly true to the original, while not always in the plot, at least in the spirit. But I have to admit I'm a bit rusty in remembering all of Eyre.
Gemma is a strong girl, who once her uncle dies, is left to the cruelty of her aunt. Gemma becomes the help instead of part of the family. The family doctor feels for her and mentions a boarding school where she might be happier. Gemma is able to get a scholarship and is excited to go though her teacher states that scholarship girls are not treated well. But Gemma is determined to get out of her aunt's house.
The story takes place in the 1950's and 60's. Boarding schools like Gemma's go out of fashion and her's is shut down before she can graduate. She has to take a job and decides to become a nanny rather than work in a hotel.
Gemma takes a job at a remote island off the Scottish coast, as a nanny to Mr. Sinclair's niece. But like Mr. Rochester, he is rarely in residence.
Well, you know most of the rest. I will tell you there is no mad woman in the attic. The only weak point is the story used to replace that. I think it is a poor catalyst but the rest of the novel makes up for it.
Despite this being a modern variation of the classic, it still felt timeless as most of the story takes place in remote villages in Scotland and there are few references to remind the reader of the time period.
I really enjoyed this novel and appreciate the author's ability to update while keeping the spirit of the original story. You won't be disappointed.
my rating 4.5