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Places to Go: The Voyage by Katherine Mansfield

Written by Rachael Norris, 13th November 2020

London Development Manager at The Reader, Suvi Dogra, reads an extract of The Voyage by Katherine Masfield. The theme for our daily readings this month is 'Light in the Dark'. Check out the rest of our readings for November and download the calendar here.

Amidst the new pandemic restrictions and autumnal weather, the sound of a voyage may seem like a distant vision, however the prospects of it are sweet and day dreams inducing. Katherine Mansfield’s The Voyage accompanies a little girl, Fenella and her grandmother on a boat journey to Picton, where her grandparents live. The story opens with a parting, when Fenella’s father sees her and her grandmother off at the dock making small talk about the journey. Fenella is anxious to know how long she is going to stay with her grandparents. In response, her father presses a shilling into her hand, a big sum for those days. To Fenella it feels like a confirmation that, she was perhaps going away forever. I was deeply moved by Fenella’s conclusion, after all she is just a child and it seems like a big life transition is underway for her and she has not quite yet grasped this change.

This exchange also made me wonder why Fenella was being sent away in the first place. It is only halfway through the story when we discover that Fenella’s mother has died and her grandparents are likely to be her new guardians. I had to pause and reflect at this point and ponder about how children perceive loss and how they may feel compelled to suddenly grow up because of it. It also took my mind towards the title of the story as well as the frequent use of words like dark and blackness in the early part of the story. Is ‘the voyage’ a mere journey or is in fact the journey of Fenella’s life transitioning into a new phase without her mother, where she would perhaps be expected to present herself as a grown-up? Fenella’s observations of her grandmother’s interactions with people on the boat or looking after her grandmother’s umbrella with a sense of responsibility all seem to point towards her desire to fit into the world of adults, given her changed circumstances. It may also be her way to work through her grief and look towards the new phase.

Though imbued in a sense of sadness, the story ends in hope. On the voyage, Fenella chooses to grow out of the darkness of the circumstances and emerges at the other end a bit more buoyant. She knows she will be looked after by her loving grandparents and she embraces the change. Hope you enjoy learning more of Fenella’s story and voyage through this excerpt.

 

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