An old gem: “The Scent of Water” by Elizabeth Goudge

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“The Scent of Water”, written by English author, Elizabeth Goudge in 1963, is, for me, a real gem.
I first read one of her books – “The Little White Horse” – when I was a child and fell in love with her style and beautiful prose. In my teens, I read “The White Witch” and adored it and now, I’ve read “The Scent of Water” for the first time and it’s whetted my appetite for more. A re-read of “The White Witch” is a necessity, I think!

Elizabeth Goudge was a writer for whom attention to detail was important. She was a wonderful painter of pictures in the mind, from descriptions of settings, to characters and thoughts. Her work is shot through with a spirituality which does not push religion into the face of the reader, but relies on the connections between the natural world and the people who inhabit that world, past and present.
I find it hard to connect this author’s work with a particular genre: some of her novels are historical; others could be classed as family sagas, while others have a slightly other-worldly feel to them.

“The Scent of Water” is set in the early 1960s and tells of a change of direction in the life of 50 year old Mary Lindsay. She has been a career woman all her working life, but has never forgotten a visit she made to her Cousin Mary, as a child. When the elderly lady dies, the younger Mary inherits the Laurels and all that Cousin Mary owned. The story continues and we meet the characters who live in the village. We soon learn of their lives and how they relate to Mary, her home and each other. We see how Mary discovers truths about herself that she hadn’t realised existed.

As I write this, it sounds so mundane, but within the pages of this book, there is so much to treasure. It may seem a little dated to younger readers, but for anyone in need of a gentle, yet thought-provoking read, this book would be ideal.

About the Author:

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Elizabeth de Beauchamp Goudge was an English author of novels, short stories and children’s books.

Born in Wells, she moved with her family to Ely when her father, a clergyman, was transferred there. When her father, Henry Leighton Goudge, was made Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, the family left Ely and went to Christ Church, Oxford.

Goudge’s first book, The Fairies’ Baby and Other Stories (1919), was a failure and it was several years before she authored Island Magic (1934), which is based on Channel Island stories, many of which she had learned from her mother, who was from Guernsey.

Goudge was awarded the Carnegie Medal for The Little White Horse (1946), the book which J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter stories, has said was her favorite as a child. The television mini-series Moonacre was based on The Little White Horse. Her Green Dolphin Country (1944) was made into a film (under its American title, Green Dolphin Street) which won the Academy Award for Special Effects in 1948.

A Diary of Prayer (1966) was one of Goudge’s last works. She spent her last years in her cottage on Peppard Common, just outside Henley-on-Thames, where a blue plaque was unveiled in 2008.

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