Margot Livesey‘s “The Flight of Gemma Hardy” is a modern homage to one of my favorite novels, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Icelandic born Gemma first loses her mother, then her father, before being taken to Scotland by her doting uncle. Jane’s daunting Lowood School becomes Gemma’s Claypoole. Only Claypoole closes early and a young, bright Gemma must make her own way in the world before she will be able to afford to attend college. She takes a job as an au pair in the remote Orkney Islands working for Mr. Sinclair. Just as in Jane Eyre, their relationships blossoms into something more. However, on their wedding day, secrets are revealed and Gemma flees.
This book is a modern Gothic romance; Jane Eyre in the 1960’s if you will. While I sincerely liked this book, I did not love it the way I love Jane Eyre (for my favorite books of all time, Jane Eyre is number 5, see here). The relationship between Gemma and Mr. Sinclair did not progress as naturally as between Jane and Mr. Rochester and thus seemed a little forced. However, comparisons aside, this is an excellent stand alone novel and a fascinating tale of misfortune and perseverance. If you like this book, you’d love The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton or The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson, both of which are two fantastic, contemporary gothic novels. 4/5 stars.