Author(s): Margot Livesey
'Margot Livesey’s THE FLIGHT OF GEMMA HARDY is the portrait of a delicate, iron-willed girl, an orphan and a heroine in the grand tradition. The writing is at once wholehearted and razor sharp, but here as in all of Livesey’s novels, the real treasure is her gift for exploring the unreduced human psyche with all its radiant contradictions, mercurial insights, and desperate generosities. Gemma is real -- it’s as simple as that. And through her eyes we see step by step what it means to stay determined in the face of the world’s ceaseless ambiguities -- what it means, in other words, to take possession of one’s own life.' David Wroblewski, author of THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE When her widower father drowns at sea, ten-year-old Gemma Hardy, an only child, is taken from her native Iceland to Scotland, to live with her uncle’s family. But the death of her doting guardian soon after leaves Gemma under the resentful eye of her aunt, and Gemma, her aunt quickly makes clear, is an unwelcome guest. When she receives a scholarship to a private school, Gemma believes she’s found the perfect solution, and she eagerly sets out again to a new home; but at Claypoole she finds herself treated as an unpaid servant. To Gemma’s delight, the school finally goes bankrupt in 1959 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 her standards), single, flying in from London when he pleases, Hugh Sinclair fills the house with life. The unlikely pair are drawn to one another, but their courtship is cut short by Gemma’s discovery of a secret that has shadowed her employer’s life; soon after, she resolves to flee to mainland Scotland and vows to forget Mr. Sinclair. But as she rebuilds her life she wonders with increasing intensity whether she may still have a family in Iceland. As for her vow, that proves harder to keep than she imagines. Set in Scotland and Iceland in the 1950s and 60s, THE FLIGHT OF GEMMA HARDY is a captivating homage to Charlotte Brontë‘s Jane Eyre - a sweeping saga that resurrects the timeless themes of the original, but is destined to become a classic all its own.
Margot Livesey grew up in Scotland. After taking a B.A. in English and philosophy at the University of York in England she spent most of her twenties working in shops and restaurants and learning to write. She is currently a distinguished writer in residence at Emerson College. She lives with her husband, a painter, in Cambridge, MA, and goes back to London and Scotland whenever she can.