The Flight of Gemma Hardy
by Margot Livesey
Fate has not been kind to Gemma Hardy. Orphaned by the age of ten, neglected by a bitter and cruel aunt, sent to a boarding school where she is both servant and student, young Gemma seems destined for a life of hardship and loneliness. Yet her bright spirit burns strong. Fiercely intelligent, singularly determined, Gemma overcomes each challenge and setback, growing stronger and more certain of her path. Now an independent young woman with dreams of the future, she accepts a position as an au pair on the remote and beautiful Orkney Islands.
But Gemma’s biggest trial is about to begin . . . a journey of passion and betrayal, secrets and lies, redemption and discovery that will lead her to a life she’s never dreamed. (goodreads.com)
Earlier this year, The Flight of Gemma Hardy kept popping up on my radar. Eventually I saw a review over on Stephanie’s Written Word (where I find all of my interesting adult fiction, if I were to be honest). There was something about both the title and cover of this book that haunted me. After reading Stephanie’s review I felt like I needed to read this book almost as much as I need to breathe (something I occasionally forget to do, I might add). Through the rest of February and all of March, as my reading difficulties progressed, I would still think about The Flight of Gemma Hardy and wish I had to it read. I wasn’t buying books because, well, I wasn’t reading the ones I had in the house. Why spend money on something you’re not going to use, right?
I finally broke down and bought this book online after having checked it out in the store. To add to the beauty of cover and title that was haunting me, the book’s pages are that ragged, torn edge thing that for some reason makes books all that more appealing. I know that sort of binding is called something, but I can’t think of it right now. The book was stupidly priced in the store, but I knew I could buy it from the store online, making it cheaper AND not have to use my credit card (bonus!)
Gemma flew to my house last Monday when I was home sick. The book arrived just as I was finishing another book and I started it the same day. Although I wanted to do nothing but read the book the week proved to be stubborn in its instance that I do so many other things. I did not find this fair at all. After almost three months of being unable to keep my nose in a book for more than 3-5 pages at a time, I was now ready to forget about the world and bury myself in a book. I spent my working days daydreaming of this book. I didn’t want to work at all, I wanted to curl up in a corner and read. The few nights I was able to find time to read last week, I was so exhausted I’d fall asleep before I got any reading done.
It’s rare I am haunted by a book so deeply. It’s almost as if I knew from the first time I heard the title or saw the cover that I would fall in love with this story completely. Friday night I read until I was cross-eyed. I woke up Saturday morning and finished the book.
I cried for an hour when it was done.
It was a good cry though. One of those happy endings to a heartbreaking tale sort of cries. I loved Gemma and her sad little existence. I loved her story. I loved her determination. I loved her heartbreak and her joy.
I might have hugged this book for a while after I finished it.
Every once in a while you come across a story that just resonates with you. A story you are so glad to have in your life. I feel this way about The Flight of Gemma Hardy. I know this is a retelling of Jane Eyre so I think I shall now pick up a copy of that classic (since I have never read it) and give that a try. Maybe it’s the plot that I am in love with. Maybe it’s the author’s words. Maybe it’s just Gemma. Either way, this book vaulted to the top of my All Time Favourite list. I am going to buy copies of this book for friends. I am going to lend out my copy (possibly with a written contract about owing me their soul in case they damage the book that the reader will have to sign before I let them leave with the book. Heh).
This book is beautiful and heartbreaking and just utterly charming. It’s what I needed to get me back into reading again. The book is sitting on the coffee table right now and I keep looking at it longingly. I can’t remember a time when I wanted to re-read a book as soon as I finished it, but that’s exactly how I feel now. I’m trying to channel that desire into reading all of the other books I have in the house right now.
I want to write a love letter to this book. This book is my soulmate. I swear.
I now have Jane Eyre on my iPhone, though I don’t think I’ll be able to read it that way because I hate reading things on my iPhone. I wanted to download it to see what I’d think of it before I rush out and buy yet another classic novel that I’ll never read, despite my best intentions. Meanwhile, I think I’ll have a cup of tea and make doe-eyes at The Flight of Gemma Hardy a little bit longer.