Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review of The Flight of Gemma Hardy and a Q&A with the author Margot Livesey

The Flight of Gemma Hardy
Margot Livesey
Harper Collins
464 pages

Gemma Hardy was born in 1948 in a small Icelandic village, she lost her parents and the kindly uncle who took her in and brought her to Scotland, the land of her mother. She was sent away by a bitter aunt to be treated like a slave under the guise of scholarship, to be mistreated but to grow in spite of those who would keep her down. At seventeen she takes a job as an au pair to an orphan Nell on the outreaching Scottish Islands known as the Orkneys, here she will encounter a fork in her road of life, here her quest will take on new directions. Her journeys will take her far, they will teach her lessons about life, love and hope. She will be a teacher herself as well as a student, they will introduce her to people who will change her life, who will become another part of her as she continues searching for herself and to those whom she belongs. They will show her the right and the wrong ways of living, of loving, of caring. She will meet people on her journey that she will try to but never forget, who will be a catalyst and an anchor and perhaps the albatross of failure. She will make errors on this pilgrimage, errors that she wouldn’t forgive in others, errors that will farther the lessons of who she is and who she will become. Gemma knows that she was not born Gemma,  and in her exploration to find who she was, will she also find who she is, will she be ever searching or will she finally find peace and most importantly the home she longs for.

Margot Livesey was a new author to me before I opened these pages and I’m so glad that I did. She brings to life a recent history of a girl who I couldn’t wait to find out more about, the timeline seems earlier than the turbulent 60’s here in the states, to a more bucolic existence in rural Scotland and eventually to Iceland where her imagery will come to life with her words and her story is epic as well as prosaic as she introduces us to Gemma and we fall in love with her spirit and her determination. Gemma is not the only character in the novel and Ms. Livesey gives each one their own history in a way that makes us know them well. Her dialogue is easy to read and yet it takes us to places most of us will never travel where we will see clearly through her words. This is a coming of age story, a love story, a tragedy, a comedy and a romance all in one neat package. Speaking of packaging it was the cover design and the title that drew me to this novel in the first place.
So if you’re looking for something you will not soon forget, a drama that will stay with you, a must read that will fill your personal library shelves for years to be pulled out again and again to revisit, look no farther. This mist read will certainly be shelved among my favorites as well. Thank you Ms. Livesey for one heck of a trip, now where will you take me next.

Q&A with Author Margot Livesey
The Flight of Gemma Hardy

Margot than you so much for taking the time to talk to us about your new release
The Flight of Gemma Hardy

Debbie - I have to tell you right off that the cover plus the title is what pulled me to this novel
How important do you think the title and or cover is to the success of a novel.
Margot - Thank you.  I think Harper Collins and the brilliant jacket designer, Jarrod Taylor, did a wonderful job.   I am probably a bad person to judge how much effect a book’s cover has as I have a lot of opinions before I enter a bookshop.   But as I browse I do pick up certain books I’ve never heard of, drawn to them by their alluring covers.
As for titles, to quote a friend a good title is the title of a good book but again I do think a memorable, or resonant, title can really help a book find readers.  Think of Reading Lolita in Tehran. 
D -Tell us a little about the novel, what inspired it.
M -I was inspired by my love of Jane Eyre and by realizing how many people shared that love.   It seemed like a wonderful, though very challenging idea  to try to  write back to Bronte, creating a heroine who wrestles with a more contemporary set of morals and mores.  I set my novel in the ‘60s just before the great wave of feminism, the pill and equal rights broke over Britain and the US.
D - You had a childhood that most girls would envy, tell us a little about being raised in a Scottish Private school for boys.
M - My father taught at a boys’ private school in the valley of Glenalmond, a very beautiful place.  It was ten miles from the nearest town and a world unto itself.  As a small child I took the presence of boys in uniform for granted.  Later of course there were frustrations at living in such a remote place, at traveling back and forth to my girls’ school in town.   I could never stay late to play hockey or hang out.   And fraternizing with the boys at the school was strictly forbidden.
D - Give us an example of the day in the life of Margot Livesey
M -My ideal day – except for when I’m walking in the Scottish hills – is quite boring..  I try to write fiction in the morning.  In the afternoon I read my students work and go to the gym and answer letters..  My husband is a painter.  In the evenings I like to  cook; I made desserts in a restaurant for a while.  Often after supper we both work but we also see friends (which is the opposite of boring) and go to the cinema.  Then periodically there are bursts of travel and excitement.
D - Everyone is always trying to put a book on a genre shelf, so which shelf would The Flight of Gemma Hardy go on.
M - Gosh.  Well, I can say with confidence that it’s not a thriller or a mystery..  I hope it belongs on that shelf of good entertaining books that both carry us away from our own lives and let us see them a little differently.
D - Do you have any book signings or events at a Barnes & Noble, I’m sure many of the members and commenters here would love to meet you in person.
M - I am reading at the Barnes & Noble at 2289 Browadway, New York, NY at 7pm on Tuesday, February 7th. and would love to meet readers there.
D - Thank you again for answering my questions, and good luck with The Flight of Gemma Hardy
Please visit the author’s website here, buy the book here.

1 comment:

  1. Love the characters. Don't mind the plot twist -- it would be hard to top Bronte! The sweet ending seemd a bit forced, but ah well.