Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Flight of Gemma Hardy, Margot Livesey

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.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy is set in 1950's and 60's Scotland, and is a retelling of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, a book which I really love. Gemma Hardy was orphaned and sent to live with her kind uncle. But when he died, she was left under the rule of her tyrannical aunt. She thinks going to Claypoole, a boarding school, will save her, but arrives there and finds herself treated as a menial servant. The school eventually goes out of business, and Gemma takes a job as an au pair on the remote Orkney Islands, where she meets Mr. Sinclair of Blackbird Hall. His eight year old niece is Gemma's charge. Gemma finds herself fascinated by the comparatively rich Mr. Sinclair. Her biggest trial is about to begin.

I really loved this one just as much as the original novel, if not a teensy bit more. The writing is certainly much more modern than Bronte's, but it bears a certain resemblance to that of Jane Eyre. The novel sticks very closely to the original storyline for the first half, but in the second half, there's a lot added in and a lot taken out. Even though I knew the story, I still really wanted to find out what was going to happen next as I was reading, and there were plenty of surprises. Gemma is an interesting character on her own, and The Flight of Gemma Hardy is an amazing book on its own too. Who knows whether it will be remembered as Jane Eyre is now, but I certainly loved it.

I also loved the design of the hardcover edition that I checked out of the library. The cover is very nice, but what I really liked was the spine, flaps, and the back cover. So elegant.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy is a much better classic retelling than For Darkness Shows the StarsIt sticks closer to Jane Eyre, but also explores more too. Also, though it's set in the 20th century, you don't really notice it that often, expect when it occasionally mentions cars. I still felt that somehow it was set in the 19th century (or at the very least, early, early 20th century). And I liked that.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy is an excellent novel, both on its own and compared to the original.

Read The Flight of Gemma Hardy:
  • if you like Jane Eyre
  • if you like classic retellings
  • if you like historical fiction
  • if you like books set in Scotland
443 pages.
Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!

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