Marvin Gaye famously sang ‘Wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home’. The inference is that, snail-like, you can carry your home with you, within you, allowing you to live nomadically without the pull to a particular place, rootless and free.
It’s a fabulous song, but one whose sentiment I’m not sure many people can honestly share. Home – the place or places you call home – matters.
I have two homes: a restored rectory in Kent, near the white cliffs of Dover, and a farmhouse in the Var region in the south of France. Both are my havens, and over the years we have owned them I have taken great care to develop them into places where I and my family feel most comfortable. Most importantly, my houses are places full of memories that ground me and my family. As Dr William A. Ward put it, ‘A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.’
The concept of home is fundamental to my novel Burning Embers. Following her parents’ divorce during childhood, Coral was torn away from the home she had always known and loved: her father’s plantation in Mombasa, Kenya – Mpingo. She has been happy enough living in England since, but something has been missing for her, and at the start of the book there is a sense of release now that she is finally returning to her birthplace. Mpingo, which holds such sentimental value for her, given that it was her father’s who has now passed away, will be her home now. And when she senses a threat to her keeping that home, she reacts as a lioness under attack, resolute in her determination to protect her home. Rafe, meanwhile, is similarly attached to his home, Whispering Palms, the neighbouring plantation to Mpingo.
The question at the end of the novel, then, when Coral and Rafe find their way to each other, is what will happen next? Where will they call home? Mpingo? Whispering Palms? Someplace new? Another place that has meaning for them? Now that they have each other, does where they live matter so much?
I won’t give away the ending of the book; read for yourself and then let me know what you think! I will simply end with the famous adage that holds true in all circumstances: home is where the heart is.