The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
Published: 2012 by Harper Perennial
Source: Received from publisher for review
**** WARNING **** The following comments may be taken as spoilers to some people. I have made the assumption that readers are familiar with the basic premise of Jane Eyre, but if you haven’t read it yet what I’m about to discuss reveals some general plot points.
The similarities between The Flight of Gemma Hardy and Jane Eyre:
- Both novels are books about orphaned girls who after the death of their beloved uncle are treated horribly by his family before being sent off to boarding school; at which the treatment is not much better.
- After leaving the boarding school, both Gemma and Jane become governesses at a remote manor owned by a mysterious man who is not always present.
- Both women meet said mystery man by chance before the opportunity to be formally introduced presents itself
- Mystery man falls in love with the governess but just as they are about to wed a secret from his past is revealed, causing Gemma/Jane to flee the one place she has truly felt at home in her life.
- During Gemma/Jane’s flight she learns about family members she did not know she had.
- The novels have similar (though not completely alike) endings.
- The descriptions of each novels’ landscapes are very vivid.
Ah, but then the differences! For me these are why The Flight of Gemma Hardy was much easier for me to read and enjoy:
- The Flight of Gemma Hardy is a shorter novel (I enjoy reading long novels, really, but it took me five times to finally make it through Jane Eyre a few years back)
- Set in Scotland and partly in Iceland, Gemma travelled much farther from her uncle’s home than Jane could have ever imagined. (Of course modern transportation methods greatly helped with this.)
- For me, Gemma was a much more likeable character than Jane. That’s not to say I didn’t like Jane; I just thought Gemma was a lot more feisty and interesting. Again that may have something to do with the modern setting and I could relate to Gemma more. I also found Mr. Sinclair to be much more likeable than Mr. Rochester. Personally I could never see why anyone would like Mr. Rochester.
- The Flight of Gemma Hardy had a wider range of entertaining supporting characters, including a homosexual couple (Would Charlotte Bronte even have imagined such a thing?), which added to my enjoyment.
- Gemma Hardy is fascinated with birds from a young age. A smarter person than me could probably make inferences about that (outside of the Flight part of the title) — is it her desire to be free like birds?
You definitely don’t need to have read Jane Eyre to appreciate The Flight of Gemma Hardy. Gemma Hardy’s story definitely stands on its own. I wouldn’t call it a happy story, but it is interesting and a pleasure to read, despite its occasional sadness. If you have read Jane Eyre, you probably can’t help but see the parallels between the two novels; as I displayed above, the stories are similar, but Margot Livesey creates a story that touches on the similarities but adds so much more.
For other thoughts on this novel check out the other stops on this tour.