29 March 2012

Thursday Tea: The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

The Book: This is an interesting week on my blog. On Monday I wrote about a spinoff of Pride & Prejudice and started out that post by saying I sometimes claim Austen's classic is my favorite book. Today—and I promise it's total coincidence—I'm writing about a reworking of the other book I often claim as my favorite: Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy is a well-done modernization of Brontë's beloved novel. Margot Livesey very smartly set her retelling in the postwar years of Scotland. Much past the 1950s, and Gemma's aunt would not have been able to send the girl off to be a working student. Further, if Gemma had left her Mr. Sinclair any later than the 1960s, the whole second half the story would have fallen apart. It's difficult to imagine Gemma Hardy's or Jane Eyre's flight would have been successful in a more modern world.

I was as thoroughly taken in by Livesey's version as I was the original. I was particularly interested to see how the scenes I remember from Brontë would be adapted in the retelling. Everything in Jane's story—the scary attic room, Helen Burns's death at Lowood, Adele, Mr. Rochester, the fire, Rochester's secret, the cousins, St. John Rivers, the Rivers sisters—is a part of Gemma's story. Livesey has updated and tweaked the details, but all is recognizable.

My only objection was that I didn't think Sinclair's secret was bad enough to scare Gemma off, but before the last page, I understood and accepted her reaction. I had been anticipating the ending of The Flight of Gemma Hardy, wondering how it would compare to that of Jane Eyre. Here I was happy to see that Livesey remembered that Gemma is a twentieth-century young woman who had a different vision of her future than Jane could ever have imagined.

Added bonuses for me, besides the descriptions of Scotland, were everything Orkneys and Iceland. I wish I too could take flight at a moment's notice and hop on a plane for points north. If you love Jane Eyre, you'll love The Flight of Gemma Hardy.

I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition (AudioGo, 14 hr, 52 min) read by the devine Davina Porter. Need I elaborate? She is one of my all-time favorite narrators, and I can't imagine listening to a Scottish novel read by anyone else.

The Tea: We were briefly back to summer temperatures in these parts, and I was drinking iced tea. Adagio's Strawberry tea, which I don't love hot, makes a refreshing cool drink. Here's the description: "Combining the succulent taste of sweet strawberries with bright Ceylon black tea. Fresh sweet-floral and berry flavor, smooth and sugary texture." I definitely did not pick up on the sugary texture (sounds gritty to me), but I did like the taste.

The Assessment: Would Gemma Hardy drink iced strawberry tea? Probably not. In fact, she doesn't really care for tea and probably would shudder at the idea of drinking it cold. I'm blaming it on all that time spent in the isolated Scottish countryside. If she were living in the States in the 1960s, she just might go for a glass of sun tea.

What About You? In these crazy days of seasonal transition it's hard to tell whether you want something hot or cold to drink. Which did you choose? And tell me what book has caught your attention.

Buy The Flight of Gemma Hardy at an Indie, Powell's, Book Depository, or a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Thursday Tea was the brainchild of Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog.
My full audio review will be published by AudioFile magazine.
Published by HarperCollins / Harper 2012
ISBN-13: 9780062064226
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)
FTC: I buy all teas myself, I am not a tea reviewer.


caite 3/29/12, 6:16 AM  

I will admit that I am not usually a fan of these 'remakes' but I am a great Jane fan...
And strawberry tea..hot, I am not sure but cold might be delicious...

Sandy Nawrot 3/29/12, 6:56 AM  

OMG Davina? That is irresistible to me you know. But I guess first I should read Jane Eyre? I really REALLY need to just do this. I'm not sure I can even call myself a serious reader without having read it.

Anonymous,  3/29/12, 7:16 AM  

I first read JANE EYRE when I was 13 or so, I think. I reread it in my 20's and not since. I'm interested in reading this book for all the reasons you stated above. May have to think about listening to it though. I, too, have enjoyed Davina Porter's lovely voice.

bermudaonion 3/29/12, 8:43 AM  

I'm kind of embarrassed to say I've never read Jane Eyre. Hopefully this book will be a great introduction for me. Strawberry tea sounds delicious!

Daryl 3/29/12, 10:13 AM  

I am reading Harry Dolan's Very Bad Men the second in what I hope will be a long series set in Ann Arbor .. sipping PG tips mostly with an occasional cup of Republic of Tea's Maine Blueberry

Loved Jane Eyre .. I might need to get this one .. thanks!

Unknown 3/29/12, 11:10 AM  

I enjoy your Thursday teas. I keep eyeing this book. I think I read Jane Eyre...showing my age. I love iced tea and strawberry sounds delish.

Zibilee 3/29/12, 12:09 PM  

I really do want to read this book, especially since it's not been that long since I read Jane Eyre. I would love to see the similarities between both books. This strawberry tea you have been drinking sounds wonderful, and perhaps I should see if I could try to find some. I love fruity teas at times, but like you, only cold.

Martha @ Hey, I want to read that 3/29/12, 12:59 PM  

Iced Strawberry Tea sounds yummy-can't wait for summer time. I may have to save book for a summer, ice tea read.

Libby 3/29/12, 2:12 PM  

This book sounds interesting. I like what you are saying about different plot lines working or not working at different points in history...I never thought about that before, but of course, it is true. Let's see...about the tea...I think it sounds good cold. It is crazy, unseasonably warm here :)

grammajudyb 3/29/12, 8:21 PM  

I'm reading "First You Try Everything" by Jane McCafferty. My newest favorite tea is Phoenix Oolong from White August Tea company. It is described as "faintly scented with a variety of trupical fruits the carefully bleded with wok toasted spring Oolong offering a smooth gold liquor with a fruity aftertast of almonds"It's great hot and I have not tried it iced yet. I usually do tea in the evening and evening is still cool in Wyoming.

grammajudyb 3/29/12, 8:22 PM  

ok "Tropical" and "blended" and "aftertaste"...must proof better before posting!

picky 3/29/12, 8:43 PM  

I think this is a case of me loving a book too much to want a re-created version.

I read Jane Eyre for the first time when I was in 4th grade and have read it many times since.

I almost wish I hadn't because it means I can't really enjoy the films. I've read several reviews of this now but just don't think I can stomach it.

BUT it's reassuring to know you enjoyed it as it's had some mixed reviews.

Carrie K. 3/30/12, 12:41 AM  

I have this book on my to-read shelf - waiting for after TBR Double Dare! And I love Jane, so am very glad to hear that this is a worthy retelling.

Julie P. 3/30/12, 4:22 PM  

I just ordered this one for myself after Dawn raved about it.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 3/31/12, 12:22 PM  

I haven't read Jane Eyre since high school, so I had only a very foggy frame of reference. I really liked GEMMA HARDY, and appreciate the parallels to the author's own upbringing.

In the first few chapters there's a passage about a path across a causeway ... the cover seems just perfect for that passage and for the metaphor of the entire novel.

Anna 4/2/12, 3:21 PM  

I just got this book from the library and can't wait to read it. I haven't read Jane Eyre since college, so I hope I remember enough of it to make comparisons.

Anonymous,  4/8/12, 1:56 PM  

I finally got my hands on a copy! I had to order it, since every time I looked at B&N they didn't have it. What's up with that, B&N??

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