Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

The Flight of Gemma Hardy, by Margot Livesey, is a kind of reworking of the classic novel, Jane Eyre, this time set in 1950’s Scotland. It follows the fortunes of Gemma, a hard done by orphan who is hated by her step-family. She is sent to a boarding school where she is treated as a servant, before taking up a position as nanny to a young girl whose wealthy uncle is both attractive and moody, with a dark secret or two. Sound familiar?

Gemma is a great character: small and insignificant on the outside; but inside, she’s smart, resourceful and impulsive, and ready to stand up against any injustice. Her story is one of running away and it is no coincidence that she is fascinated by birds, as when the going gets tough, Gemma takes flight – abandoning her family, school, and relationship problems. The dramatic landscape and weather of remote parts of Scotland provide an evocative backdrop.

Somehow the story sticks pretty much to Charlotte Bronte’s original, with a few changes to suit the times, and it’s an enjoyable novel, the writing nicely judged, and the characters interesting. But Jane Eyre this is not. Lacking is the intensity of style, the passion and drama which made the original work so well. Maybe I miss the bleak north of England landscape. I certainly miss the Victorian setting where a bit of melodrama fits in so well. And while Jane and Mr Rochester make such a great match, I couldn’t quite say as much for Gemma and Mr Sinclair. All the same, The Flight of Gemma Hardy makes for a pleasant read; it just isn’t a gripping one.

Reviewed by JAM

 Check Catalogue and reserve online
 The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey, 2012

About the Author

Margot Livesey is a Scottish born writer. She is the author of six novels, numerous short stories, and essays on the craft of writing fiction. Livesey came to North America during the 1970s where she worked to get her fiction published, reportedly because her boyfriend at the time was also a writer. Livesey's work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and a number of literary quarterlies. She is also the Fiction Editor at Ploughshares, a renowned literary journal. She currently lives in the Boston area and is the writer-in-residence at Emerson College. Fantastic Fiction

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