Gemma Hardy is no doubt the modern day Jane Eyre of our time. Orphaned at a young age and brought from her native land of Iceland to be taken in by her Uncle and his own small but prosperous family, Gemma grew up in a relatively loving environment until the untimely death of said Uncle. Upon his demise Gemma’s life became one of unhappiness and abuse at the hands of a jealous Aunt and cruel cousins.
Eventually the young girl was tossed away to a boarding school where she was all but a servant, still the ever resilient child showed herself to be composed of more than many ever believed her to be. Surviving the desperate conditions of Claypoole School and the death of a dear friend, Gemma perseveres to attain her education and seek employment beyond the walls of the institution once she has become of age.
Enter this novel’s tragic hero and possible tragic flaw: Mr. Sinclair who just happens to be the guardian of a young girl named Nell in need of a governess.
Sound familiar? It should. Touted as the contemporary Jane Eyre of our time, Margot Livesey’s The Flight of Gemma Hardy has been promoted in such as way as to create enormously large literary shoes that claim to have been filled before the first pages were even lightly turned by the majority of everyday readers.
However all is not as well written, as it may seem or as it has been advertised.
The modern day Mr. Rochester’s secret lacks power much as the romance between him and Gemma lacks spark and magnetism. While one of the hallmarks of Jane Eyre is a detached sense of emotion, it also a raging sense of passion that ignites between her and her lover that make the novel what it is and is celebrated for being. That bond makes the novel and unfortunately is missing in this newest interpretation. In this department the relationship and interactions between Gemma and Mr. Sinclair pale in comparison and ultimately fall devastatingly short.
Nevertheless the experience of losing all hope of love and affection at such a young age only to grow up and possibly find it in the most unlikely of places; is a great one. It also makes for a great story no matter the time in which it is written. Gemma’s ongoing search for love and family among the wilds of Iceland lend nicely to taking on some originality beyond the barest of modernizations. The story of Gemma Hardy is one with small caches of originality mixed with an undeniable blue print of one of the most celebrated pieces of literature ever written. It also is a testament to the writer’s talent for inspiration and re-invention. Incidentally it is also impossible to put down.
In the end the book while it cannot be said to be anything less than a reasonably well written piece of literature it also manages to more than anything shine a light on Charlotte Bronte’s true masterpiece as not only the gem that it is but also as a work of inspiration for writers of today and the future.