2013: The Flight of Gemma Hardy

"We did not go for a walk on the first day of the year."

The Flight of Gemma Hardy, Margot Livesey

I was uncertain about this book - I'd read another book by Livesey, Eva Moves the Furniture, and I have not one single memory of it.  And this book is a modern retelling of Jane Eyre, and I have such love/hate feelings about books like that. I'm fascinated by the idea of retelling and reusing classic novels and am drawn to reading them, but so often am annoyed by the final outcome (See, or rather don't, March, by Geraldine Brooks a book that purports to tell the story of the father from Little Women, and a book I hated hated hated).  To be clear, this isn't a Wide Sargasso Sea situation where Livesey is continuing on the story of one of the characters from the original book, but rather a modern story of a young orphan named Gemma Hardy, whose life tracks along that of a famous Victorian governess…

The thing that makes this book work is that it's enjoyable regardless of whether or not you know and love Jane Eyre - the connections to that book are just gravy on top of an well written coming-of-age story.  Gemma isn't Jane, exactly, she is her own fantastic self - strong willed and determined to make something of herself despite being an orphan placed in some pretty grim circumstances.  My only quibble [HEREIN BE SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN'T READ JANE EYRE] with the parallel storytelling is that this Mr. Rochester (known as Sinclair here) has a a much less scandalous secret than a madwoman in the attic - a bit of a cop out, because it makes it so, so much easier for her to forgive him, - and makes her running off seem a little bit bonkers.  But I nonetheless recommend the book whole-heartedly, especially if you like books of young women making their way in the world.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017