May 24, 2012

Review | The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

Title: The Flight of Gemma Hardy
Series: N/A
Author: Margot Livesey
Genre: Adult Fiction - Historical/Retelling
Publication: 01.24.2012 by HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 447
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: ★★★★½

Summary: 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.

Thoughts: I've never read Jane Eyre and I was planning on reading it before I started The Flight of Gemma Hardy, but one thing led to another and I was short on time and it is. I read this one first and I had no way of comparing one to the other. The Flight of Gemma Hardy is a retelling of the classic Jane Eyre, set in 1960's Scotland, and whilst I had no idea what to expect really, I found the story rather fascinating and not at all what I expected.

What I liked:

• The characters: We meet Gemma as a young girl, rejected by her family and sent to a school where she must work to earn her keep. She lives a sad childhood, but learns from the world around her. She becomes tough and determined to achieve her goals, and this makes her a likable character. She grows a lot throughout the book and the author was able to create a girl who I only wanted to see happy and was able to really understand throughout the novel.

There are a lot of secondary characters as well, most which are important to the story and add a lot to Gemma's life. Livesey was able to develop them all enough that they each played an important role in changing Gemma as she grew throughout the book

• The writing: While I do not know how much is from the original novel, the writing was beautiful and vivid. Livesey captivated me with her descriptive writing, development of characters and amazing storytelling. I was able to enjoy this book wholeheartedly and while it took me a few sittings to finish the book, I enjoyed the writing thoroughly.

• The setting: The book takes place in Scotland, and partly in Iceland. I haven't been to either country but Livesey's descriptions of each were so amazingly done that I felt I could see them clearly. Livesey spent plenty of time describing the lands, streets, and homes. There was a lot of detail for the reader to enjoy.

• The romance: I am not sure how the original story goes, obviously, but I couldn't help but wait for something romantic to happen to Gemma. She lived such a sad life that I wanted her to find someone to fall in love with and be happy with. When she finally meets Mr. Sinclair, the anticipation of something to happen between them was killing me. While their romantic meetings were very simple, there was something very sweet about their interactions and time spent together. After each scene were they shared some dialogue, no matter how insignificant it was, I found myself sighing, hoping for more.

• The plot: Again, there is no way for me to compare this to the original, but I loved this story. While it is a simple tale of a young girl growing up and overcoming the obstacles that life has thrown at her, it is such an intricate story that was instantly immersed in and ended up adoring.

What I didn't like:

• The love: I mentioned above that I enjoyed the romance that was shared between Gemma and Mr. Sinclair, but I had a difficult time understanding why she loved him. What was it about him that really made her feel the way she did?

• The length: Most classics are a bit long, detailed, and sometimes, boring. While I don't feel that Gemma was boring or too detailed, some scenes seemed a little more prolonged than they needed to be.

• The ending: I wanted a few more pages. A little more explanation. Something to make me think that everyone was going to live happily ever after, after all. I think she did. But I want to be positive she does. I wonder how the original one ended?

Overall: The Flight of Gemma Hardy is definitely an enjoyable read for someone who hasn't read Jane Eyre, like myself, and who enjoys historical fiction. While there were only a couple of things that I feel could've been added, I found this to be a nicely written book that I am really glad I picked it. I might feel differently about the book once I read the classic and have something to compare to, but I am sure that fans of Jane Eyre will also find this a good read and definitely recommend it to everyone who enjoys classics and their retellings.

About the author: Margot Livesey grew up in a boys' private school in the Scottish Highlands where her father taught, and her mother, Eva, was the school nurse. After taking a B.A. in English and philosophy at the University of York in England she spent most of her twenties working in shops and restaurants and learning to write. Her first book, a collection of stories called Learning By Heart, was published by Penguin Canada in 1986. Margot is currently a distinguished writer in residence at Emerson College. She lives with her husband, a painter, in Cambridge, MA, and goes back to London and Scotland whenever she can.
Buy the book: Amazon


  1. That looks interesting. Maybe I should dig on this soon! :)

  2. I'm not a huge fan of historicals but I've been hearing good things about this one. The romance sounds especially well done and sweet and I love books set overseas. Glad you enjoyed it, Cindy!

  3. This sounds like a great read for this summer ^_^

  4. From the synopsis, it seems a little too close to the original..I don't know..I like retellings to be of an interpretation.

    Still, awesome review. And you should pick up Jane Eyre, it's a nice classic. =)

  5. Jane Eyre is one of my favorites, and this one seems to have the same feeling.

  6. Interesting thoughts. This one has been on my radar, but like you I wanted to wait until I've reread Jane Eyre (I read it ages ago and remember nothing). Maybe I'll get to it sooner now...

  7. Jane Eyre is one of my fave classics! I have got to have a chance of reading this!

    Great review. =D

  8. I may be wrong here, but perhaps sometimes it's better to read a retelling if you don't know a thing about original. Maybe it's best to read them the other way around, if you have a chance. First this, then Jane Eyre. I'm not much for historicals, but this sounds very good!
    Followed you! :)

  9. A good romance and setting are always two very important aspects about a book for me. I haven't read Jane Eyre either, but I do enjoy re-telling. I will definitely keep this book in mind. Thanks for your review:)