Born an orphan, she soon begins to feel that everyone she loves soon dies and leaves her all alone. She has an awfully selfish aunt and cruel cousins, but the uncle who had taken her from Iceland to Scotland after both her parents died, was very loving and kind. Sadly, he soon dies as well.
Her heritage is largely unknown to her and she yearns for a family and a home. She was only the tender age of 7 when she was ripped from her life in Iceland and moved far away to begin a new and, ultimately, dreadful life. After the death of her uncle, she is sent away to a school as a “working girl”. Her evil aunt has told the headmistress that she is ill behaved and a liar. She is none of those, but she is headstrong and self directed, willing to do what she must to survive and get what she wants out of life. Without those qualities, she would not have survived the ordeals she experienced.
Gemma is young and her decisions are noteworthy for their immaturity and selfishness. She runs away, leaving her fiancé at the altar, ostensibly because she believes he lied to her. She then proceeds to leave the people who employ her in the lurch, disappears into the ether, and commits the sins for which she condemns others, in addition to some which may be judged far worse. We could explain away her impetuous behavior if it only happened once, but the pattern was repetitious. She should have learned from her mistakes, even at her young age, and she should have had more compassion for those she left behind. She was so lonely and sad most of her life, felt abandoned and lost, and yet, she abandoned others with alarming frequency. She never seems to face the consequences of her own mistakes head on, and therefore, she fails to anticipate them or to correct them. However, somehow serendipitously, things always seem to work out. Although there are hints of the supernatural and of spirits, this theme is not well developed.
By some, it has been called a sort of modern day Jane Eyre; I do not agree. The story of Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre”, stayed with me for my entire life. In this book, I neither loved Gemma nor many of the other characters. I think the original was far better than the impersonator.