Monday, March 05, 2012

Book Review: The Flight of Gemma Hardy

The Flight of Gemma Hardy Book Cover
Margot Livesey has written a modern day novel based on the classic, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. If you’re like me, you remember reading the romantic classic in high school or college. Those were the days when you could relax, curl up and read a good long novel without any other cares. Bronte’s novel tells the story of the poor but fiercely independent Jane and her triumph over incredible obstacles. The gothic romance is one we will always treasure as a tale of self-discovery, passion, independence, and triumph over obstacles. So, who could turn down a retelling of the beloved classic?

Livesey's novel tells the story of Gemma Hardy, a smart, independent and determined young girl. Set in 1960’s Scotland, Gemma grows up in both Iceland and Scotland prior to the death of both of her parents. She is sent to Scotland to live with her uncle, and after his death, she must live with her cruel aunt and her cousins. By the age of nine, she is sent to a boarding school where she must work and cook in exchange for staying at the school. During this time, Gemma struggles and deals with various problems, including hard work and school bullies. Later, she accepts a position as a nanny in the Orkneys, a cluster of islands in Scotland. She meets the mysterious Mr.Sinclair who is the owner of the home where she now lives. She is strangely but immediately drawn to him. Importantly though, Gemma returns to Iceland to discover her true roots.

Throughout The Flight of Gemma Hardy, the dark and foreboding Scottish landscape creates an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue. Follow along on an adventure as you travel the romantic Scottish countryside and rugged coastlines. As you read, you’ll notice Livesey’s use of language and description, suggesting her love of nature. Gemma’s passion for birds suggests her desire to take flight from her circumstances. The author's details about Scotland's landscape and natural world add beauty and depth to the book.

Gemma is a strong young female character. She teaches us all self-reliance, strength and character. She is spirited but still vulnerable. This is a novel about strength of character and finding oneself despite overwhelming obstacles. We find that circumstances, just as with us all, shape Gemma and form who she is as an individual.

The beauty of the book lies in Gemma's determination, triumph over poor circumstances and her journey back to Iceland to find her true roots. Her spirit leads her to an incredible discovery, far greater than she could ever imagine.

I would recommend this book to readers who love Jane Eyre, strong female characters, historical and Scottish fiction. This beautiful story about a courageous young girl and her search for self will transport you through Scotland and beyond. Enjoy the journey.

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