Monday, April 9, 2012

The Flight of Gemma Hardy

by Margot Livesey

The Flight of Gemma Hardy is promoted as a "modern day" Jane Eyre. I loved Jane; Gemma is no Jane, much as she may try! Rather than using Bronte's classic as a springboard, Ms. Livesey used it as a sort of checklist, and unfortunately missed the mark. In the beginning of the novel the two stories run almost exactly parallel: Jane/Gemma orphaned, move in with cruel aunt, blamed for fight with mean cousin, gets sent off as a working student at a poor boarding school, makes friends with sickly girl who dies in her arms, becomes teacher to orphaned niece of Sinclair/Rochester, falls in love with him etc. In the instances where Livesey veers from the classic she does so to the detriment of the story and characters: her reason for leaving Mr. Sinclair at the altar, the lesbians who revive her, stealing from the family who hired her in her time of need and her reconnection with Sinclair.

I'd like to say that Ms. Livesey has a nice writing style, but I found it hard to focus on that when I was constantly comparing her book with Bronte's, and hers just didn't measure up. Maybe if she tried something of her own imaginings her style would shine.

For anyone who may feel inclined to read Gemma Hardy, I'd suggest you just dust off your copy of Jane Eyre instead.

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