Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge

This author, Elizabeth de Beauchamp Goudge was born in Wells, England on 24 April, 1900.  She died on 1 April 1984.  Her father was a clergyman and the family were transferred to Ely until her father, Henry Leighton Goudge was made Regius Professor of Divinity at Christ Church College, Oxford.

Image   I had lived with this book, Scent of Water, on my mother’s book shelves as long as I could remember. When Mum was moving to a retirement apartment and down-sizing I decided to take the book over and read it.  It then stayed on my shelves for some time.  Eventually, I got around to reading it.  On the face of it, the story is about a woman, Mary Lindsay, is a born and bred Londoner who has enjoyed her city life.  She  inherits an old little cottage in a village in rural England, from her aunt, after whom she was named, only once.  When she inherits the cottage, Mary goes to live there.  Her aunt saw a quiet imaginative child.  She thought the girl was a kindred spirit and so she wanted the child to inherit her ancient house.  Fifty years later Mary inherited the house with no knowledge of it beyond her childhood memories, also, she had no experience of country living.

Mary had lived in London and had a prestigious job, friends with whom she enjoyed the theatre, art and such city iterests.  She has retired and meets a married blind man n the village.  She also lerns more about her aunt by reading her diaries, but she also learns about herself.  Studies of various inhabitants of the village and their conflicts develop.  There is redemption and love infusing every paragraph.

Appanrently, Scent of Water is one of Goudges’ best known works although I had never heard of it, nor of her, except for the fact that it sat in the book case as I was growing up.  I found it a bit dated and I thought the religious elements were somewhat heavy handed.  However, when Mary arrives in the village, her presence sends ripples through the whole community and many lives are enriched.  The book also has the most touching, gentle treatment of mental illness I have ever read.  To that extent the book is ahead of its time.


The title of the book, Scent of Water, comes from a passage in the Bible from the Book of Job:

“For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.  Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; yet through the scent of wateer it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.”

Peter Robinson once told me that phrases are a great source of titles as there is no copyright! Perhaps Elizabeth Goudge was aware of this too.

Valerie Penny



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