We pressed on through the gently rolling farmland of Berry, with its streams and hedgerows. We were deep in George Sand country and all along the way there were reminders of her – places where she had lived or that she had used in her novels.
She was an extraordinary woman to come out of nineteenth-century rural France, with her insistence on the rights and privileges that were taken for granted by men. She wore male clothes, smoked in public, and took a succession of famous lovers after separating from her husband. Her first novel, describing the struggles of a woman trying to escape the “slavery” of marriage, was a sensation and she wrote a prodigious number of books thereafter, many of them using the countryside of her youth as a setting.
In old age she summarised her position with the poignant remark:
“if these people of the future are better than we are, they will, perhaps, look back at us with feelings of pity and tenderness for struggling souls who once divined a little of what the future would bring.”
As we walked, the weather deteriorated. It had never really recovered from the thunderstorm at Sancoins and we became accustomed to streaming capes and wet feet. The trouble with wet feet was that they laid us open to blisters, the curse of the long-distance walker.
Day 9: Montgivray to Cluis