The Heroine: Gemma Hardy, an Icelandic orphan brought over to Scotland by her benevolent uncle as a toddler in the 1950s. Disconnected from her past and out of place in her uncle's family, Gemma finds herself alone in the world after her uncle's death, thrown into a boarding school by her cruel and cold aunt, where she is treated as a servant and suffers injustice. Her world only begins to look up when she finally leaves the school and becomes an au pair to Nell, a small girl with a wild and uncontrollable spirit, and finds herself falling in love with Nell's guardian, Mr. Sinclair. But peace and happiness are hard to come by for Gemma: Mr. Sinclair reveals a deep secret that threatens their bond and thrusts Gemma back into turmoil, where she embarks on an adventure leading all the way to the shores of her childhood in Iceland.
The Highs: Hailed as a modern day telling of the classic story Jane Eyre, this novel is undoubtedly one of the best books I have ever had the pleasure of reading in my life. Margot Livesey is a highly talented and skilled writer, who has created a protagonist, Gemma Hardy, who comes to life within the first paragraph and continues to tell her tale like a living, breathing, utterly real entity until the very last page. Gemma is such a wonderful, fantastic creation that I almost can't believe she's fictional. Brave, bold, righteous and too smart for her own good, Gemma is both loveable and frustrating, a mixture of the good and bad that make humans what they are.
I was hooked on this book for the very first page, wanting to know where Gemma's life would take her next. Chaotic and disordered, Gemma is helpless to the forces of those bigger than her as she is tossed thoughtlessly from place to place. The inspirational fact is that, even as a child, precocious Gemma never admits defeat, from telling her aunt exactly what she thinks of her to plotting an escape from her boarding school to visit her dying friend Miriam. The story follows Gemma as she ages and learns, and with each chapter, my attachment to the character only grew stronger.
Beautifully written, thoughtfully and carefully crafted and embedded with gorgeous imagery and important lessons, The Flight of Gemma Hardy is a book I will not forget. It has become a classic for me and deserves a spot on my bookshelf next to the likes of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters.
The Lows: I felt that the story ended rather abruptly, which was such a shame after the strong attachment that had grown between me and the character, Gemma. I wish the author had included an epilogue so I could know what happened to Gemma.
Final Thoughts: I read this book on my e-reader, but I am now determined to get my own hard copy, so I can add it to my library. This is the type of book I imagine passing on to my own daughter in the future; I highly recommend it to everyone.
Rating: The Flight of Gemma Hardy earns the very rare ten birds in flight out of ten.
Buy 'The Flight of Gemma Hardy' at the Book Depository here
Connect with author Margot Livesey here
Photo from here