Although Margot Livesey has published six previous novels – including The Missing World, Eva Moves the Furniture, and Banishing Verona - her most recent, The Flight of Gemma Hardy was the first I’ve read her. I was so taken with it, and hungry for more, that I’ve already started collecting her backlist titles, and picked up the PEN New England Award-winning The House on Fortune Street.
Inspired both by Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, and the landscape of Livesey’s own childhood, The Flight of Gemma Hardy is a wholly original story, which takes the reader from the Scottish Highlands, to the outer Orkney Islands, and to Iceland.
All along the way, we’re cheering on the protagonist, who Steve Wingate, editor at Fiction Writers Review calls a “scrappy survivor with no real place in the world who will land on her feet and create one.” Truly, Gemma faces one adversity after another, and eventually lands on her feet.
It’s been decades since I read Jane Eyre, so I can’t speak to the parallels between the two novels. I do hope to view one of the many film adaptations in the next few weeks – do you have a favorite to recommend?
Here’s the publisher’s synopsis of The Flight of Gemma Hardy:
A captivating tale, set in Scotland in the early 1960s, that is both an homage to and a modern variation on the enduring classic Jane Eyre.
Fate has not been kind to Gemma Hardy. Orphaned by the age of ten, neglected by a bitter and cruel aunt, sent to a boarding school where she is both servant and student, young Gemma seems destined for a life of hardship and loneliness. Yet her bright spirit burns strong. Fiercely intelligent, singularly determined, Gemma overcomes each challenge and setback, growing stronger and more certain of her path. Now an independent young woman with dreams of the future, she accepts a position as an au pair on the remote and beautiful Orkney Islands.
But Gemma’s biggest trial is about to begin…a journey of passion and betrayal, secrets and lies, redemption and discovery, that will lead her to a life she’s never dreamed of.
Livesey read two excerpts, then took Q&A before signing books. You can watch the reading, or forward to the Q&A in the video below: