The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
About this book:
When her widower father drowns at sea, Gemma Hardy is taken from her native Iceland to Scotland to live with her kind uncle and his family. But the death of her doting guardian leaves Gemma under the care of her resentful aunt, and it soon becomes clear that she is nothing more than an unwelcome guest at Yew House. When she receives a scholarship to a private school, ten-year-old Gemma believes she’s found the perfect solution and eagerly sets out again to a new home. However, at Claypoole she finds herself treated as an unpaid servant.
To Gemma’s delight, the school goes bankrupt, and she takes a job as an au pair on the Orkney Islands. The remote Blackbird Hall belongs to Mr. Sinclair, a London businessman; his eight-year-old niece is Gemma’s charge. Even before their first meeting, Gemma is, like everyone on the island, intrigued by Mr. Sinclair. Rich (by Gemma’s standards), single, flying in from London when he pleases, Hugh Sinclair fills the house with life. An unlikely couple, the two are drawn to each other, but Gemma’s biggest trial is about to begin: a journey of passion and betrayal, redemption and discovery, that will lead her to a life of which she’s never dreamed.
Set in Scotland and Iceland in the 1950s and ’60s, The Flight of Gemma Hardy—a captivating homage to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre—is a sweeping saga that resurrects the timeless themes of the original but is destined to become a classic all its own.
While The Flight of Gemma Hardy is reminiscent of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, it is a beautifully told story that can stand very well on its own two feet; just like its heroine. Orphaned at a young age, Gemma is taken from her home in Iceland by her kindly Uncle to live with his family in his home in Scotland. Tragically, he passes away not too long after and Gemma is left alone with her resentful aunt and spoiled cousins who make sure that she daily knows that she is not one of them. Seeking for an escape, our heroine jumps at the opportunity to go boarding school even as a working girl, despite the advice of her teacher to wait for another opportunity.
Always headstrong, Gemma goes to school planning on it being not only an adventure, but a place for her to finally make friends and belong. Sadly, this is not to be, as she is bullied even worse than before - not only by the rich students who aren't there on scholarships but by her fellow working students. When the school closes and she is able to once more envision escape from a life of abuse and loneliness, Gemma is overjoyed and accepts a position as an au pair to Nell, an orphaned child with a bit of a wild streak; you see a bit of the young Gemma reflected in her.
In her new home in the Orkney islands, Gemma is faced with romance, secrets, heartbreak and the beginning of the adventure to truly find herself and finally take charge of her life.
Gemma's story is, to me, not one of tragedy but one of growth and hope. Of one little girl's journey through the labyrinth of life to find herself. I'd recommend this novel to not only fans of Jane Eyre, but to fans of historical fiction and those who've also journeyed to find themselves.