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New Book Encourages Young Women to Travel Alone: Exploring the “Girl’s” Coming-of-Age Novel

Roman Payne in Paris

Roman Payne in Paris, a week after the publication of “The Wanderess”

It is a cold November morning in New York, and a new and very interesting novel just came out. Very few novels are published with titles like: The Portrait of an Artist as a Young ‘Woman.’  And even if a woman comes of age in a novel, she may as an artist, but never an adventuress.  Writers of coming-of-age novels about young adventurous men have a well-worn, established path to follow in the centuries-old genre of the: “Bildungsroman.”  This German word, made popular by writers such as Goethe, refers to a “tale of initiation” where a boy, through worldly experience—usually involving solitary travel—becomes a mature man who is successful in the world.  Female initiation tales in novels are much more rare, and when we do see them, they almost never involve solitary travel.  A girl who has travelled alone has always risked experiencing social taboos—and still does, even in our “enlightened” 21st Century.

But a “girl travelling alone” is the subject and setting of the story in Roman Payne’s new novel, The Wanderess, which was published this month (November 2013) chez Aesthete Press.  The Wanderess—Payne coined the word “wanderess” as the feminine form of “wanderer”—tells the story of “Saskia,” who begins the novel as a girl, and finishes as a young woman.  Upon the death of her family, she inherits an income which allows her complete independence throughout her teenage years.  This income far from consoles her.  As she doesn’t need to work, nor aspire to the ambitions her—no longer living—family expects of her, she must ask herself: “what we are alive for?”…  Her temporary answer is to search for the best friend she had while at boarding school in London, who now could be anywhere in Europe.

Like any great novel, there is a great romance.  It begins when Saskia’s life gets tangled with the life of an adventurer (Saul), whose pursuit of pleasure and fortune gets tangled with the quest of this “Wanderess” for her long-lost friend and her own fortune.  From the back cover description:  “The two find themselves on a picaresque path that leads them through Spain, France, Italy and beyond; their adventures weaving them deeper and deeper into a web of jealous passion, intrigue, betrayal, and finally, murder.”

Payne admits that writing this, his fifth novel, wasn’t easy: “I already wrote a novel of initiation [Cities and Countries] about a young man’s solitary travels, adventures, and his coming-of-age; but The Wanderess is my first book where the hero is female.  I obviously have no life experience in that role, yet the women who have read the advanced copies are unanimously positive.  They expressed their delight and say that Saskia is lovable, convincing, and a highly-successful character.

Roman Payne was born on January 31 in 1977, in Seattle.  He is a literary-fiction novelist based in Paris, France; and, besides The Wanderess, he is the author of four other novels: Crepuscule, Cities and Countries, Hope and Despair, and Rooftop Soliloquy.  Payne is also the founder of the literary social network: CulturalBook, and the co-founder of the cultural publication: CityRoom.


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