I’m going to share a shameful little secret…….I have never read Jane Eyre. (I KNOW!)
I also have never watched any of these number of film adaptations to the novel either. (What have I been doing? For shame!) What is funny is that months and months ago, Jackie wrote this post titled, Who is Your Mr. Rochester? and (up until she took the world by storm with her video review of The Divinity Gene) it has been one of the most frequented posts on our site.
A few weeks ago, I also saw the trailer for Jane Eyre (2011) and was immediately drawn in to watching it over and over again. Then the library told me my Hold I had placed on “The Flight of Gemma Hardy” was in and off I went to pick it up. I was semi-hesitant about reading this as the cover led me to presume this was more for a Young Adult crowd.
Margot Livesey’s THE FLIGHT OF GEMMA HARDY has been touted as an inventive, modern re-telling of Jane Eyre. And, after reading this wonderful gem of a story, I will definitely need to rectify my discomfiting secret mentioned above!
That Gemma Hardy gal will keep you reading, and kept me reading right from the very first pages to the very last one. With determined doggedness, Gemma navigates her youth determined to come of age on her terms and only on her terms.
Gemma must live with her most beloved Uncle after her Icelandic father and Scottish mother die when she is still very young. Immediately following her Uncle’s untimely death, Gemma’s Aunt and cousins stop at nothing to relegate her to a life-station just below the family dog. Gemma believes she is making a great escape when her Aunt sends her to Claypoole, a boarding school where she will become a “working student” in order to pay for her tuition. Sadly, life in Claypoole left Gemma dreaming of the “comforts” of her Aunt’s home. Claypoole is filled with plenty of mean girls and a nasty headmistress and is where Gemma must endure her days if she wishes to reach University. Her only friend Miriam dies and later Claypoole closes due to bankruptcy.
Gemma has two major goals in life: one is to discover and retrieve any memory or belonging of her Icelandic father’s family, and to attend University.
Following the closure of Claypoole, Gemma is once again left without a real home, and faces continued set back for taking the exams required to attend University. She must take a job in the isolated village of the Orkney’s and here is where she cares for 8-year-old Nell and meets her “Mr. Rochester”, the mysterious, often-absent businessman Mr. Sinclair.
The remainder of Gemma’s life is (I’m certain) different from the Jane Eyre story, but needless to say she continues to never allow for others to determine her course in life and perserveres in her goal of travelling to Iceland and attending University. Nothing, absolutely nothing alters or stands in the way of these plans.
I won’t give anything away of the ending, it is a happy one for Gemma and I was pleased to see how it ended. It stayed true to Gemma’s pluck and personality. I honestly enjoyed following Gemma’s “flight” and perhaps only once in the story felt it was a bit far-fetched, but overall, she was a wonderful heroine! A very well written story that kept me following from beginning to the end. 4 stars.
Jane Eyre was first published in October 1847, and has remained in print ever since.
You can find Margot Livesey on her official website: http://margotlivesey.com/
In the Author’s Words
“I made my heroine a little older than myself because I wanted her to come of age just slightly before the rising tide of feminism—the pill, equal pay, discrimination—broke over both Britain and the States. The Flight of Gemma Hardy is, in my mind, neither my autobiography nor a retelling of Jane Eyre. Rather I am writing back to Charlotte Brontë, recasting Jane’s journey to fit my own courageous heroine and the possibilities of her time and place. And like Brontë I am, of course, stealing from my own life.”