The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey. Only in this story Gemma is a girl living in 1950's Scotland.
Now, if you know anything at all about me, you know I love Jane Eyre. I spent a large part of last spring re-reading and posting about it. So, I was curious about The Flight of Gemma Hardy. It's not the first time a writer has been 'inspired' by the book. Daphne du Maurier took a swing at it with Rebecca which became a classic in its own right. However, instead of borrowing bits of the story, Livesey has taken the whole plot. This didn't really bother me much until later in the novel when Gemma meets Mr Sinclair.
Here's my issue. I never really felt a bond between Gemma and Sinclair, not anything like Jane and Rochester. Gemma is more immature than Jane, even though they are the same age at this point in the plot. The men are much older but it seems a lot ickier in the case of Gemma. Jane is completely alone in the world; Gemma has a small circle of friends. Being alone makes the relationship between Jane and Rochester possible because they are thrown together and as intellectual equals build a relationship. Jane and Rochester are two halves of a whole, they have a connection. I didn't feel that with Gemma and Sinclair. When his 'big secret' is revealed, I thought Gemma's reaction was overkill. Was running away without telling anyone what she was planning really necessary? I don't think so.
The thing is I really enjoyed so much of The Flight of Gemma Hardy was when it wasn't being shoved into the plot of Jane Eyre. I loved Gemma's desire for an education and her determination to find out what happened to her parents. The writing is lovely and the sense of place, whether the Orkney Islands or Iceland, is enjoyable. Gemma's friends interested me more than Mr Sinclair ever did.
Gemma herself often frustrated me, especially near the end. For a girl who wants so badly to have friends and a home, I don't know how she could so easily run off (again) the way she did. She has issues with communication. She's not terribly reliable either. Birds as a symbol crop up time and again. Gemma is a bird but she is no Jane, as Jane herself says: "I am no bird; and no net ensnares me."
It's hard for me to judge The Flight of Gemma Hardy. If it could be thrown in a centrifuge and separated into two books, I'd be happy.
Big thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours who went out of her way to make sure The Flight of Gemma Hardy got to me. Check out the tour info page for more dates on the tour.