Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: The Flight of Gemma Hardy

The Flight of Gemma Hardy
By Margot Livesey
Publication date: January 24, 2012

My review:

The Flight of Gemma Hardy is based on Jane Eyre but it is not a direct retelling. The story is set in Scotland in the 1950s and 60s, follows the life of Gemma Hardy from her childhood living with her unpleasant aunt and cousins to her tenure at a strict all girls school where she is a charity case and then to her post as an au pair working for the Sinclair household. This is where the novel departs from Jane Eyre a little. 

I love Jane Eyre not just for the plot and characters but for the Gothic tone as well. That is something I missed with The Flight of Gemma Hardy. Margot Livesey does an excellent job of conveying a sense of place with her descriptive writing. She makes the reader feel the remote beauty and isolation of the Orkneys. What is missing is the sense of darkness, mystery, and menace that pervaded life at Thornfield Hall in Jane EyreI was particularly disappointed with the climactic scene between Gemma and Mr. Sinclair. In Jane Eyre, you really understand why Jane reacts the way she does to Mr. Rochester's secret but not so in Gemma Hardy

Unlike Jane Eyre which incorporates mystery into the storyline, The Flight of Gemma Hardy focuses mainly on the internal growth of Gemma and her search for that elusive concept of who she is as a person and what home represents for her.  I liked the use of symbolism with Gemma's name and the incorporation of birds and the theme of flight. I also liked the way setting played such an important role in the novel. I do wish that I hadn't found the story to be so slow moving at times but I think that I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been expecting a retelling of Jane Eyre. I think The Flight of Gemma Hardy is best savored on its own as the story of a resourceful young woman on a journey of self discovery.

Note: I received an ARC of this book for review purposes through the Amazon Vine Program


  1. Great honest review. Thanks for pointing out the lack of darkness.

  2. I've seen mixed reviews of this book but your comments about the how this lacks the mystery and menace of JE makes me more interested. I like a lighter book with intense character development and this sounds like it might work for me.

    You might find this an interesting bio. Never set out to challenge the Bronte story, but after 7 years of researching the family, the secrets started to emerge.


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