eeek the very first Flipping Pages!  I’m not going to lie, I’m super excited about this one because, well, it’s delicious.  One of those books you don’t want to put down.  And definitely one of those books I never would have read had Jessica not been in my life.   So, go pick this one up and settle in.  Tomorrow there will be a cocktail to go along with this delicious story!

Summertime Wanderlust: The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey


image1 1024x656 Flipping Pages: The Flight of Gemma HardyJessica at Edinburgh castle, 2001

Every year as summer rolls around, it hits me: Wanderlust. I don’t want to be home wrapped up (read: tied down) in the everyday, I want board a plane and roam distant lands (which hopefully have luxurious accommodations).  However, life sometimes gets in the way of my travel plans. I know, ridiculous! When I can’t get away, the next best thing to travel, for me, has always been finding a great story to get lost in. During the summer, I try to read novels set in faraway places. So simple, so cheap. All you need is a comfy, quiet place, your book and your imagination. Add a latte (or, dare I say, a cocktail) and a few delectable morsels to nibble on and the experience could almost compete with a fabulous vacation. I am aware that this sounds cheesy, but who cares?

The Flight of Gemma Hardy satisfies some serious wanderlust. Set in Scotland, and later in Iceland, the novel is a clever re-tooling of Jane Eyre. In most situations, I’d frown upon something billed as the “retelling” of a classic, beloved novel. It seems like stealing. Or just laziness. Practically every beloved classic has been copied, both outright and covertly, a thousand times. The originals are perfect. Just read those! But Livesey takes the basic threads of Jane Eyre to create a story that feels fresh. It’s fun to note all of the clever parallels to Bronte’s masterpiece (they’re sort of sign posts that mark your place in the story: here, the harrowing school years. There, the letter announcing a job offer), but you don’t need to have read Jane Eyre to enjoy Gemma Hardy.

It begins in the 1950′s and stretches into the late 60′s as Gemma is taken from her native Iceland to her uncle’s home in Scotland after the deaths of both her parents. Her uncle intends to raise her as one of his own, but he, too, dies, leaving her in the care of his mean-spirited wife. Gemma’s aunt sends her away to a boarding school where Gemma must work as a housemaid and fight to get an education where she can. Eventually, she finds a job as an au pair to a wild young girl living under the care of Mr. Sinclair, master of Blackbird Hall in the Orkney Islands. And then things get really interesting.

The novel is so lovely, so skillfully crafted. Some of the gothic elements from Jane Eyre are preserved, but don’t feel out of place in the least. I found myself cringing at all of Gemma’s missteps, all her little misfortunes. And going through all of these with her make reading about her triumphs all the more satisfying. The ending breaks away from the Jane Eyre model to fit in more with the time it’s set in, the beginning of the women’s movement. By the end, you’ll be sorry you can’t follow her just a bit farther, just a bit longer.

Happy reading!

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