Jane Eyre is a respected classic. Charlotte’s Bronte’s immortal novel of a young woman who is able to rise above the challenges of her early life to find success, love and happiness has appealed to readers for a century and a half.
The Flight Of Gemma Hardy: A Novel by Margot Livesey takes Jane Eyre out of rural Victorian England and takes the story to 1950’s and 1960’s Scotland. Gemma Hardy lost her parents before she could know them. Taken in by her maternal uncle, who has also passed away, Gemma lives with her uncle’s widow and his children, who resent her and abuse her.
At the age of ten, Gemma receives a scholarship to attend school. It appears to be heaven-sent and freedom from the abuse she received from her aunt and cousins. But it turns out that Gemma is not going as a student, but as a maid. Eight years later, the school is bankrupt and she finds work as an au pair for the mysterious Mr. Hugh Sinclair. Mr. Sinclair lives in Blackbird Hall on the remote Orkney Island. Gemma’s charge is Mr. Sinclair’s eight year old niece.
Following the narrative of the original novel, Gemma falls in love with her boss and he with her. But there is a dark secret and a journey that the heroine must go through before she has her happy ending.
Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books. Jane’s tenacity, strength and courage, when she is abused, mocked and taken advantage of shines through every inch of the book.
On the surface, it’s easy to take a classic and put in another era. The difficulty is to take the heart and soul of the original novel and keep those elements intact while changing the specific details of the era. Unfortunately while the author was able to transport the story and characters to Scotland in the 1950’s and 1960’s, she lost the heart and soul of Jane Eyre.
Do I recommend it? No, not even if you’re a Bronte fan.