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The Flight of Gemma Hardy (P.S.)by Margot Livesey
Having lost both her parents, and subsequently her beloved uncle, 10-year-old Gemma Hardy is left with her uncle's wife. Her aunt despises Gemma and wastes no time dispatching her off to boarding school, where room and board are exchanged for nonstop backbreaking work. Education is an afterthought, but Gemma is a bright and earnest girl. After eight long years, she has worked hard and begrudgingly earns the respect of the school director. When the school abruptly closes, Gemma realizes she is soon to be homeless and penniless. Answering a desperate ad for a nanny on the isolated Orkney Islands, Gemma hopes to find — finally — the home and security she has never known.
Sound familiar? Livesey does a great job with this homage to Jane Eyre — so much so that I often forgot that Gemma Hardy lived in 1966 and not in 1850, until things like trousers on women, nail polish, and Scrabble intruded. Like Jane, Gemma is a serious and intellectual woman who falls in love with her employer, Hugh Sinclair (Livesey's stand-in for Mr. Rochester). There is no mad woman in the attic, but Gemma does have her own demons who threaten her happiness. Hugh Sinclair also has ghosts from his past, and Gemma finds herself unable to accept them. Taking flight, she disappears — leaving her newfound home, security, and love in her wake. Desperate to find some sense of family and her own history, Gemma realizes she is willing to lie, and worse: take on the exact same characteristics she finds intolerable in Sinclair. Touching on the histories of both Iceland and Scotland, with charming folktales and sometimes heartbreaking historical stories, Livesey writes a detailed and layered tale of loneliness, determination, self-discovery, and love.
Synopses & Reviews
The resonant story of a young womans struggle to take charge of her own future, The Flight of Gemma Hardy is a modern take on a classic story—Charlotte Brontës Jane Eyre—that will fascinate readers of the Gothic original and fans of modern literary fiction alike, with its lyrical prose, robust characters, and abundant compassion. Set in early 1960s Scotland, this breakout novel from award-winning author Margot Livesey is a tale of determination and spirit that, like The Three Weissmanns of Westport and A Thousand Acres, spins an unforgettable new story from threads of our shared, still-living literary past.
“Gemma is real—its as simple as that. And through her eyes we see step by step what it means . . . to take possession of ones own life.” —David Wroblewski, author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
Taken from her native Iceland to Scotland in the early 1950s when her widower father drowns at sea, young Gemma Hardy comes to live with her kindly uncle and his family. But his death leaves Gemma under the care of her resentful aunt, and she suddenly finds herself an unwelcome guest. Surviving oppressive years at a strict private school, Gemma ultimately finds a job as an au pair to the eight-year-old niece of Mr. Sinclair on the Orkney Islands—and here, at the mysterious and remote Blackbird Hall, Gemma's greatest trial begins.
About the Author
Margot Livesey is the acclaimed author of the novels The House on Fortune Street, Banishing Verona, Eva Moves the Furniture, The Missing World, Criminals, and Homework. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Vogue, and The Atlantic, and she is the recipient of grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. The House on Fortune Street won the 2009 L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award. Livesey was born in Scotland and grew up on the edge of the Highlands. She lives in the Boston area and is a Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Emerson College.
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