Posts Tagged Jane Eyre

book review: the flight of GEMMA HARDY

The Flight of Gemma Hardy , by Margot Livesey. Publisher: Harper Collins (January, 2012). Literary fiction. Hardcover, 464 pp.

My mind was as grey and empty as the sky. Everything I wanted—love, a slice of toast, a warm bed, a job, my suitcase—was far, far out of reach.

When a writer decides to re-imagine or update one of the most beloved novels ever – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte—she’d best possess a solid plan and be a quality writer. Margot Livesey, writer in residence at Emerson College, wrote The House on Fortune Street, Homework and Eva Moves the Furniture among other novels. Livesey sets the story of Gemma Hardy in mid-twentieth century Scotland. This enables Gemma to be much more outspoken and bold and aware of the possibilities despite her present station. Like Jane Eyre, Gemma Hardy faces many challenges throughout her early life before ending up as an Au Pair for a wealthy man’s niece on his country estate while he works in London. The Flight of Gemma Hardy is not nearly as gothic and dark as Jane Eyre.

Although born in Scotland, Gemma’s parents [her Scottish mother and Icelandic father] brought her back to Iceland where both parents met tragic deaths while Gemma was still at pre-school age. She finds herself in Scotland with her uncle, her mother’s brother, and his wife, two daughters and son. When her uncle dies, she’s made to feel like a servant and then shipped off to a boarding school as a working student. There she works long hours studying as much as she can and also doing kitchen duties among other chores. It’s quite miserable but Gemma prevails. She’s then hired by the mysterious and brooding Mr. Sinclair to be an au pair to his niece in an estate on the Orkney Islands.

Gemma makes mistakes and quick judgments based on her emotions, youth and inexperience. She and Mr. Sinclair fall for each other. This develops quickly and without the passion and conviction to make the reader feel that this pair aches when apart from each other. In Jane Eyre, the connection between Mr. Rochester and Jane simmers off the pages. Similar to Mr. Rochester, Mr. Sinclair reveals a secret to Gemma and it’s a confounding one. That’s it? I thought. Enough to send the girl running. Another surprise– everywhere Gemma goes someone helps her in an easy, trusting manner.

While a lengthy novel, The Flight of Gemma Hardy is not a demanding read. For the most part, I enjoyed reading about Gemma’s journey. She’s spirited and plucky and fearless. She values education and understands its necessity to advance in the world. Gemma remains open to learning about new places and ideas. She becomes very interested in her parents’ Iceland. So while some aspects of this updated version of Jane Eyre might fall short, it proves to be an engaging read with appealing character development.

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FILM: Best of 2011

strong year for Ryan Gosling (Drive, Ides of March, Crazy Stupid Love), Jessica Chastain (Take Shelter, The Help, Tree of Life) and Brad Pitt (Moneyball, Tree of Life)

— brilliant, intense film about depression, anxiety and the end of the world
starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Keifer Sutherland
written and directed by: Lars von Trier

Take Shelter
–mesmerizing, creepy
starring: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain
written and directed by: Jeff Nichols

Midnight in Paris
–romantic, magical
starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Marion Cotillard
written and directed by: Woody Allen

–fascinating whether or not you follow baseball
starring: Brad Pitt, Robin Wright
directed by: Bennett Miller
written by: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin

Young Adult
–smart, acerbic, dark
starring: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson
directed by: Jason Reitman
written by: Diablo Cody

Meek’s Cutoff
–sweeping saga of a covered wagon trek through the dangerous landscape comprising the Oregon Trail
starring: Michelle Williams, Shirley Henderson, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano
directed by: Kelly Reichardt
written by: Jonathan Raymond

Win Win
–unique, moving, honest
starring: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan
written and directed by: Thomas McCarthy

Margin Call
–quietly effective, potent
starring: Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci and Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany, Penn Badgley
directed and written by: J.C. Chandor

Another Earth
–dreamy, pensive
starring: Brit Marling, William Mapother
directed by: Mike Cahill
written by: Brit Marling, Mike Cahill

Jamie and Jessie are Not Together
–inventive, alluring, engaging
starring: Jacqui Jackson, Jessica London-Shields
written and directed by: Wendy Jo Carlton

The Future
—bizarre, amusing, wistful existentialism
starring: Miranda July, Hamish Linklater
written and directed by: Miranda July

Crazy Stupid Love
—sweet without being predictable or over-sentimental
starring: Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone
directed by: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
written by: Dan Fogelman

The Muppets
–nostalgic, happy
starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper
directed by: James Bobin
written by: Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller

–retro, startling
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Mel Brooks, Bryan Cranston
written by: Hossein Amini
directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn

Into the Abyss
-superb meditation on the death penalty and our criminal justice system
written and directed by: Werner Herzog

The Tree of Life
–exquisite misery
starring: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain
written and directed by: Terrence Malick

Martha Marcy May Marlene
–disturbing and haunting
starring: Elizabeth Olson, Sarah Paulson
written and directed by: Sean Durkin

My Week with Marilyn
–delightful film and amazing performance by Michelle Williams
starring: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh
screenplay by: Adrian Hodges,
directed by: Simon Curtis

Jane Eyre
–lovely, sweeping, romantic
starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender and Jamie Bell
screenplay by: Moira Buffini
directed by: Cary Fukunaga

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