Friday, July 27, 2012
Review: The Flight of Gemma Hardy
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
We are so lucky in this world; every month new classic novels are being created by brilliant minds. Margot Livesey is a new classics author, her novel The Flight of Gemma Hardy is impeccable and beautiful, a tale that should be savored. “Wow, Margot Livesey can write” was my thought as I finished the novel. As a non-author, those thoughts do not accurately convey my enthusiasm at the beauty, simplicity and skill with which Livesey imagined this novel gem.
The novel and the story will seem familiar to the reader, and the author admits it is based on the tale of Jane Eyre; there are many similarities. When her loving uncle dies, a young girl’s life is thrown into chaos. First Gemma is moved from her room to the attic, losing her place in the family, soon she is seen as a maid that the family deigns themselves to cloth and feed. A private school is where she is sent when her Aunt no longer wants her at all; Gemma is now an unwanted charity case. Gemma survives all that the oppressive world throws at her, despite being a penniless child in dark and unforgiving times.
I struggled with the timeline as this novel is set in 1960 Scotland, a setting that was hard to imagine as I envisioned an Oliver Twist/Jane Eyre era. Gemma is set adrift in a lonely world, where schoolgirls bully each other, where the evil headmaster reigns and friends are not an option. Cleaning and cooking and memories soon fill Gemma’s days, as do desires to go to school and eventually make a living on her own. Eventually the penniless Gemma will get a job as an au pair in the remote Orkney Islands, having to take the only job offered to her.
This is truly a novel that you will want to share with friends, family and your book club.
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