First published in 1964, Valerie Taylor's Journey To Fulfillment
is said to be an underground cult lesbian novel. Gritty, dark, racy
and at some points confusing, it's a story that left me dazed and
equally dismissive of the themes that I had come across.
The novel follows Erika, a 16-year-old who has survived the
holocaust and is subsequently adopted by a family in the USA. This
seemed an odd way to begin 'a novel of lesbian love.' It felt
almost grotesque and insensitive. Why would a young girl who had
survived such incomparable pain and hardship be concerned with
nothing but her sexuality? Even in the American liberation camp
Erika and another girl touched each other up in a cabin. It started
to feel uncomfortable, like the beginnings of some sort of
The novel continued to feel uncomfortable, notably with the
projection of men. It's something that seems commonplace in the
lesbian novels I've read, even now. Erika is raped and used
throughout the novel, mainly by the male kind. It becomes in some
cases a way of brainwashing the reader into thinking that all men
are ruled by what's between their legs. Obviously that is not the
case. I have many straight male friends and not one of them would
dream of using a lady in any way and they certainly wouldn't take
advantage of a lesbian. However, it seems that many gay women in
the last century were hateful towards anybody that wasn't one of
them. Talk about equality!
I wouldn't say that this feeling has dramatically faded with time.
You don't have to be a lesbian and a rampaging feminist. You don't
have to mount a coup every time a man looks you up and down. I look
at girls when I'm walking down the street. Would you accuse me in
the same way as if a man did the same thing? Am I perverted? No.
Again, Journey To Fulfillment seems to follow another
stereotypical form as Erika falls for her teacher. Don't we all
know that story well? I don't know how many sleepovers I've had
where all that's been discussed are the boobs and hips and legs of
Sir and Miss. Ok, Sir doesn't have boobs, but you know what I
The falling in love with a member of staff follows a predictable
pattern: girl meets teacher, gains extra lessons, stays over and
falls in love. I can't say I wasn't expecting it.
It did make me think, however. Was this the safest option for a
lesbian in the 1960s? Was it easier to fall for an older 'spinster'
than go it alone with a lady of your own age? Probably. It was a
way of protection, almost maternally so. Knowing that as soon as
you turn 18 you have to start looking for a husband and a family
home. The conflict in the minds of lesbians at that must have been
It's exciting for me looking back, to see how quickly times have
changed. In the lifetime of one individual there is so much more
that I, as a female, not even just as a lesbian, can do. That's
important, but equally grounding. Journey To Fulfillment for me,
was not just a tale of a young lesbian feeling her way through the
adult world, but more of a realisation that times have changed, and
that can never be a bad thing.
How classic is Journey To Fulfillment? 3/5
How relevant is it now? 2/5