The Flight of Gemma Hardy
By Margot Livesey
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780062064226, 464pp.)
Publication Date: January 2012
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When her widower father drowns at sea, Gemma Hardy is taken from her native Iceland to Scotland to live with her kind uncle and his family. But the death of her doting guardian leaves Gemma under the care of her resentful aunt, and it soon becomes clear that she is nothing more than an unwelcome guest at Yew House. When she receives a scholarship to a private school, ten-year-old Gemma believes she's found the perfect solution and eagerly sets out again to a new home. However, at Claypoole she finds herself treated as an unpaid servant.
To Gemma's delight, the school goes bankrupt, and she takes a job as an au pair on the Orkney Islands. The remote Blackbird Hall belongs to Mr. Sinclair, a London businessman; his eight-year-old niece is Gemma's charge. Even before their first meeting, Gemma is, like everyone on the island, intrigued by Mr. Sinclair. Rich (by Gemma's standards), single, flying in from London when he pleases, Hugh Sinclair fills the house with life. An unlikely couple, the two are drawn to each other, but Gemma's biggest trial is about to begin: a journey of passion and betrayal, redemption and discovery, that will lead her to a life of which she's never dreamed.
Set in Scotland and Iceland in the 1950s and '60s, The Flight of Gemma Hardya captivating homage to Charlotte BrontË's Jane Eyreis a sweeping saga that resurrects the timeless themes of the original but is destined to become a classic all its own.
Margot Livesey's acclaimed novels include The House on Fortune Street (winner of the L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award) and Eva Moves the Furniture. She lives in the Boston area and is a Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Emerson College.
- Did Gemma's name take on new meanings for you in the course of reading the novel? What about the other names she uses at various points?In the opening chapters, Gemma's aunt is quite hardhearted, even cruel. Did your opinion of her change by the time you finished the novel?
“A delight....Livesey is a lovely, fluid writer.”
-Sarah Towers, New York Times Book Review
“A cunning adaptation.”
-Liza Nelson, O, the Oprah Magazine
“Absorbing….Ms. Livesey writes lovely, understated prose…[her] treks through the novel’s pleasing natural landscapes…are almost as engaging as her navigation of Gemma’s restless psyche.”
-Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
“Livesey delivers a suspenseful, curl-up-by-the-fire romance with a willfully determined protagonist who’s worthy of her literary role model.”
“Jane Eyre gets a terrific modern makeover….Livesey works some sort of magic in The Flight of Gemma Hardy, which is too entertaining to be superfluous, too wise in its understanding of human nature to be a mere retread.”
-Connie Ogle, Miami Herald
“Livesey has pulled off the near-impossible task that the homage begs an author to do: create an original, fresh work that shines in its own light, while bringing an established, esteemed work to the attention of new readers, and showing off previously unseen facets to its fans….”
-Meredith Maran, Boston Globe
“Livesey follows Brontë‘s form, but so convincingly does she create her own character’s life and surroundings that the original soon recedes, its story a beloved, familiar body dressed in an entirely new and vibrant wardrobe.”
“Marvelous....Gemma Hardy is one of those page turners in which you occasionally have to wrest yourself away from the plot to admire the language.”
-Kristin Ohlson, Cleveland Plain Dealer
“A brilliantly paced contemporary adventure about a headstrong orphan’s struggle to claim a place for her generous heart in a secret-laden, sometimes loveless world.”
-Lisa Shea, Elle
“Inspired by Jane Eyre, Livesey (The House on Fortune Street) offers vibrant prose and a feisty heroine in her fascinating sixth novel…. Captivating and moving, this book is a wonderful addition to Livesey’s body of work.”
-Publishers Weekly, starred review
“The portrait of a delicate, iron-willed girl, an orphan and a heroine in the grand tradition…. Here as in all of Livesey’s novels, the real treasure is her gift for exploring the unreduced human psyche with all its radiant contradictions, mercurial insights, and desperate generosities.”
-David Wroblewski, author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“In this modern day retelling of Jane Eyre - trade horses for private jets - novelist Margot Livesey pays homage to Brontë‘s literary classic.”
-Marie Claire, "Four New Page-Turners to Keep Bedside"