In the 16th century, French poet Joachim du Bellay travelled to Italy. He was most keen to live in this country, the birthplace of the Renaissance and the great Roman Empire. Yet he found he did not fall in love with Italy (though he fell in love with an Italian lady, who was married and thus unattainable), and so he returned to France. There, he published a collection of poems about his time in Italy entitled Les Regrets (The Regrets), including this one:
Happy, the man who finds sweet journey’s end,
Like Ulysses, or he of the Golden Fleece,
Returning home, well-travelled, wise, to Greece:
To live life out, among his own again!
Alas, when will I see the soft smoke rise
From my own village, in what far season
Shall I gaze on my poor house and garden,
Which are my province, and the greater prize?
My love’s deeper for what my fathers’ built,
Than Roman palace-fronts of marble, gilt;
My love’s deeper for good slate; more rare
My love for my French Loire than Latin Tiber;
My Liré than the Palatine Hill; and more
Than the sea breezes, the sweet Angevin air.
It is a beautiful homage to France, and to ‘home’. As Maya Angelou wrote, “The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
But what if, rather than ‘returning’ home, one must in fact discover home by travelling and seeking?
In my novels Burning Embers and Indiscretion, my heroines find that home is where their distant roots lie. Coral of Burning Embers returns to her childhood home in Kenya, and Alexandra in Indiscretion leaves her life in England to live with her estranged family in Spain. Both must journey to the places where they belong.
It takes a degree of faith and courage for Coral and Alexandra to venture to these other countries and explore their roots. But at least they have a family connection to anchor them. In other novels, I send heroines out into the world all alone in search of that elusive home.
In my new novel, Aphrodite’s Tears, the heroine Oriel has grown up in England with very conventional parents, but her thirst for adventure and her fascination with old civilisations has led her to a career in archaeology, which calls for international travel. She is thrilled to secure a job working on an archaeological dig on the Greek island of Helios. As far as she is concerned, this will be another interesting place to explore, before moving on.
But how long can a person move on, and then move on again, when there is the inner ache to belong? Unbeknownst to her, on Helios Oriel will find a real sense of community, of family; she will discover beauty and intrigue and challenges aplenty; she will find a man who is every bit as adventurous as her and who will stir her heart in ways she never imagined.
Happy is the person, wrote Joachim du Bellay, who finds sweet journey’s end by returning home. Actually, I think life is simpler than that: happy is the person who finds sweet journey’s end – who finds, whether through travels or roots, that safe place called home.