Tobinsfavorite's Reviews > The Flight of Gemma Hardy

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
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Apr 29, 12

Read in April, 2012

If you have ever wanted to read "Jane Eyre" without suffering through the prose of Charlotte Bronte, this might be the book for you. (Or it might not. Stripped of the prose of Charlotte Bronte, "Jane Eyre" can be a pretty ridiculous story. Stripped of Jane herself, it is worse.)

This book was suggested to me as a modern retelling of "Jane Eyre". I did not expect it to be a step-by-step translation, but before I was 20 pages in, I had reread the argument between Jane and her cousin in her dead uncle's library, including the assault with a book. Jane's claustrophobic reaction was distinctly described and plausible. Gemma's happened because Jane had one. Sadly (but briefly), the modernization included a crassness in the description of the cousins' bathroom habits.

Part of the difficulty the author had, I think, was caused by trying to fit certain events into another time period. Some of these efforts were weak and others absurd. Some of them worked well, though. I kept reading to the end to find out how this-thing-from-"Jane-Eyre" would manifest in this book. There also are some loose ends I expected to be miraculously tied up (like Jane finding her inheritance by stumbling into her cousins' home), but they were left dangling, despite a seeming multitude of illegitimate children roaming about.

Ultimately, I don't buy any romantic connection between Gemma and Hugh Sinclair. They meet to discuss and have one brief physical encounter that ends when Mr Sinclair declares, "This time it will be different." (Or something like that; I no longer have the book to check the quote.) The impetus to marry seems to be so that they can carry on this relationship in London, where Sinclair does business, without scandal. The relationship is unbelievable to me. Furthermore, although having one's crazy wife locked in the attic and attempting to commit bigamy is a difficult closet-dwelling skeleton to top, the secret Sinclair is hiding really seems like a lot of nothing to me.

In summary, there's not much this book brings to the "Jane Eyre" experience, and there are some uncomfortable added moments I could do without.
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Tamara Have you read other books by this author? "The House on Fortune Street" and "Criminals" were so skillfully written. I truly loved those books. I just finished Gemma and was pretty disappointed with it. Livesey is such a talented writer, I'm not sure what went wrong here, but by the end I didn't even like Gemma and thought she was too young & unreliable to venture into marriage. I'm glad this wasn't the first Livesey book I read because I may have missed the pleasure of her other novels.


Tobinsfavorite I'm glad to hear you like her other novels; I might try another one sometime. Thanks for the tip!


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