The Flight of Gemma Hardy: A Novel
Title: The Flight of Gemma Hardy: A Novel
Author: Margot Livesey
A modern take on Jane Eyre that takes place in 1960s Scotland. Gemma is twice orphaned—first by her parents at age three and then when her beloved uncle dies seven years later. Left at the mercy of an aunt and cousins who don’t want her, Gemma hopes for a better life at a boarding school, where she is taken on as a working student (i.e. ill-treated servant). When the school eventually closes shortly before Gemma can take exams to go to university, she next tries to find a place in the world as a nanny, leading her to Blackbird Hall and Mr. Sinclair. When Mr. Sinclair’s past comes out minutes before they wed, Gemma runs away and finds herself homeless yet again. The kindness of strangers sustains Gemma, though, and eventually she finds the courage to pursue her family ties in Iceland and discover where she’s from and where she wants to go. Less gothic than the original (and lacking the madwoman in the attic) but absolutely captivating.
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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 Hardy—a captivating homage to Charlotte BrontË’s Jane Eyre—is a sweeping saga that resurrects the timeless themes of the original but is destined to become a classic all its own.