Thursday, July 2, 2015
The Flight of Gemma Hardy - by Margot Livesey
I stumbled onto The Flight of Gemma Hardy at the library where they were offering mystery books. These books were in brown paper bags with just a brief description to let you know a little about the genre. Even once I checked out this book, I didn't initially realize that it was a retelling of Jane Eyre, which I will admit I have never read.
The book begins with Gemma's childhood, not long after her uncle has died. Gemma was orphaned as a young child and it is her uncle who steps up to care for her. He brings Gemma from Iceland to live with family in Scotland where Gemma is quite content. After her uncle's death, however, Gemma is stuck with a resentful aunt and cousins who don't care for her. When she is offered a chance to take the entrance exams for the Claypoole boarding school, Gemma sees her chance to escape and her aunt is happy to see her go.
If Livesey painted a bleak picture of Gemma's life at home, it is nothing compared to what she finds at Claypoole. Although she is very independent and even stubborn, Gemma is also a bright a fairly studious girl. Instead of finding a place where she can shine as a star student, Gemma is relegated to the status of a working girl. She has to earn her tuition by providing the labor necessary to run a boarding school and her studies often suffer because of her workload. When the school closes down, Gemma is hopeful and happily accepts a job as an au pair on the Orkney Islands.
Gemma arrives at the distant Blackbird with her hope intact and soon finds herself feeling like she has found somewhere she belongs. Even after all her hardships, though, this is really just the beginning of Gemma's journey. As she matures and finds herself drawn to the wealthy master of Blackbird Hall, Hugh Sinclair, Gemma's life will lead her down an entirely unexpected path. Livesey tells a compelling story of a girl, and a later a woman, who bravely deals with the twists and turns she encounters in life. I found Gemma's character especially intriguing because, even when it seems like her life can't get any worse, some spark of her stubborn personality shines through. Even though I have never read Jane Eyre, I very much enjoyed Livesey's novel and highly recommend it.
The Flight of Gemma Hardy will be my sixth book for the summer reading program at summerreadingonline.blogspot.com. I'm also going to cheat, just a little, and count this for the classic challenge. I admittedly don't read many classics and as a retelling of Jane Eyre, I think this book should count just in case I don't read anything else that would fit the challenge.