The Flight of Gemma Hardy, Margot Livesey’s ingenious retelling of Jane Eyre, will delight fans of Charlotte Brontë’s novel as well as readers unacquainted with the classic. Set in the 1960s, Livesey’s updated take on the tale chronicles the life of young Gemma Hardy, who is orphaned when her father—a widower—drowns. Gemma goes to live with her uncle in Scotland, but when he dies, she’s overseen by a mean-spirited aunt. As an escape of sorts, she enrolls in Claypoole, a fancy private school, but there her misfortunes continue, as she’s forced to work as a servant. Gemma’s next move is to Blackbird Hall, where the lord of the manor, Hugh Sinclair, engages her as a nanny for his niece. Gemma and Hugh feel a mutual attraction, but he has secrets that could keep them apart. Livesey has written a wonderfully engaging novel with the tried-and-true elements of romance and adventure—as well as a few surprises.

In her fascinating memoir, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, Alexandra Fuller offers another intriguing account of life in Africa. Although she was brought up in Kenya, Nicola, the author’s mother, comes from a family of feisty Scottish highlanders. Passionate and brave, she marries Tim Fuller and explores Africa with him in search of a place where they can put down roots. Fuller’s adventure-filled account of her parents’ early years makes for great reading. Nicola and Tim are an unforgettable pair, at once larger than life and down to earth. They eventually settle in the Zambezi Valley, operate a banana and fish farm and discover lasting contentment. As usual, Fuller—an expert memoirist (Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight)—writes with assurance and flair. This singular chapter in her family history brims with the sights, sounds and smells of Africa, bringing the continent to life even as it revives poignant memories from her family’s past.

Erin Morgenstern’s captivating debut, The Night Circus, focuses on a mysterious troupe, Le Cirque de Rêves, or the Circus of Dreams, and its two stars, a pair of young magicians named Celia and Marco. Raised as rivals, Celia and Marco were coached from childhood to perform in the circus. They’re now engaged in a battle of powers that’s destined to end dangerously. Their contest takes place each night under Le Cirque’s black-and-white tent, where the two find themselves falling in love—a development that could have fateful repercussions for the circus itself. Set in London in the 1800s and filled with an unforgettable cast of wizards and performers, including Celia’s father, Prospero the Enchanter, Morgenstern’s tale is a real dazzler. Her spellbinding novel works its magic through a blend of genres, combining elements of romance, mystery and good old-fashioned fantasy.

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