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Places to Go: Villette by Charlotte Bronte

Written by Rachael Norris, 11th September 2020

The theme for our #DailyReadings in September is beginnings and endings. In this week's audio adventure we're travelling the land of Charlotte Bronte's Villette with The Reader's Head of Learning and Quality Clare Ellis.

If you were to ask someone right now, to name a barrier to travel, they would no doubt answer ‘COVID-19!’ And of course it is certainly true that the pandemic has caused bedlam with our travel plans for 2020 in more ways than one, both near and far. However, even without COVID-19, some of us may have found ourselves dreaming of travel without being able to make the trip. One reason that I sometimes here from people is the fear of travelling alone. They say things like ‘I’d love to go to such and such a place, but I wouldn’t go on my own!’ Why not? ‘Oh, I just couldn’t do it!’ But then you are uplifted by hearing tales from brave souls who have had incredible journeys off the back of venturing out into the world alone. I find such journeys inspiring! And this is what brings me on to our extract for today, to Lucy Snowe, who is one such traveller. 

At this point in the novel, Lucy is in her early twenties. She is without friends or family, and without occupation. She has been working as a lady’s companion, but now that her employer has passed away, finds herself once again left to her own devices. At this point the novel is set in the first half of the nineteenth-century England, and one might assume that travelling alone as a young single woman in those days must have been no mean feat! However, with limited options and desperate to go somewhere new in life, Lucy decides to try her luck in London.  

In this extract we see London through Lucy’s eyes, experiencing the city for the first time, reminding us of what it feels like to visit new places. The passage also explores what travelling alone feels like to Lucy and it is interesting to think about what we may still share of her experiences today. It also shows the impact of travel on the human soul and how it can be awakened to new growth and possibility. So, wherever you are, if unable to travel in body, we hope this passage may provide you with a venture out in mind and memory. Enjoy it and do let us know if you’d like to hear more from Lucy! 

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