In her new, compelling novel The Flight of Gemma Hardy, Margot Livesey tells the story of a contemporary Jane Eyre. Incorporating the familiar story and characters of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Flight of Gemma follows the formative years of Gemma Hardy’s life in 1960s Scotland. But don’t expect Livesey to go exactly by the book.
In this contemporary tale, Livesey tweaks many elements and plot points of its forebear. Certain additions are necessary for the time period; certain subtractions allow for plot twists that stray from the original story. Yet Livesey stays true to the themes of overcoming hardships and dark pasts, as Gemma flies from one home—or shelter—to the next in search of a true family she can love.
Livesey’s writing uses a precise economy of words to create a fully-imagined world through Gemma’s eyes. While certain eccentricities in her writing become tedious (Gemma’s obsession with birds is never-ending), they work to at least stay consistently true to the characters. She also incorporates plenty of biblical allusions, just as Bronte did in her novel, proving that Livesey did her homework.
Flight of Gemma is an easy read that fans of Jane Eyre will greedily devour. It is always fun to place classic novels in a contemporary context, and Livesey manages it effortlessly. For those unfamiliar with Jane Eyre, you should really just go read that instead; but if you find classic literature too daunting to approach, then Flight of Gemma is a simple way to ease yourself into this story.
- The Flight of Gemma Hardy: A Novel, By Margot Livesey (independent.co.uk)