The Flight of Gemma Hardy: A Novel

The Flight of Gemma Hardy - Margot Livesey It appears that Ms. Livesey is considered a good writer, and this book was very readable, but emotionally it left me completely cold. I think the only reason I finished it was out of curiosity about how she would tie it all up, given that there seemed to be no way for Mr. Sinclair's "big mistake" (which really didn't pass muster to me) to be fixed. One thing that ended up being completely different is that Gemma realizes that she was wrong to run away; Jane Eyre was right and never doubted it. As someone said, I felt as if I were sitting there with a checklist in my head, mentally ticking off each element of the original: orphan, check; uncle dies, check; mean aunt and cousins, check; etc., etc., which made it feel more like a literary exercise in cleverness than a novel about real people.

My main criticism was that I never felt engaged with the characters or really cared what happened to them, and it's not because I knew; every time I read Jane Eyre I become completely caught up in it, despite knowing every twist and turn of the plot. A big problem with modern authors, I find, at least those writing for the popular market, is that they always feel that they have to make their characters "nice people." News flash: Neither Mr. Rochester, St. John Rivers, nor even Jane Eyre is a "nice person." They are real people, admirable or annoying or sympathetic by turns. What Mr. Rochester intended to do to Jane is horrible, within both the context of the times and of her own morality. What St. John wants is almost equally bad, at least for Jane, though I'm sure the people of the time would have had no problem with a loveless marriage for the sake of convenience. Everything in this book feels so watered down that it has no passion, not least between its main characters, and no bite.