Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Learning to Love: The Scent of Water


by Elizabeth Goudge

My book club picked this book for July. I was really looking forward to it because I'd read excellent reviews of Elizabeth Goudge's books.

In this book, Mary Lindsay leaves her life in the city behind (almost cutting her ties entirely) to move into a home left to her by her elderly Cousin Mary, a woman she'd only met once. There she meets her new neighbors, each in a struggling relationship with a spouse or a family member.

Paul, one of her new neighbors, is a man blinded in the Second World War. His marriage is rocky, partly because of his struggles as a young poet, playwright, and author. His character provides some of the context for the title.
The scent of water, of the rain and of the dew. It was difficult to separate it from the grateful fragrance of the life it renewed, but it had its scent; the faint exhalation of goodness. It would still come down upon the earth after man, destroying himself, had destroyed also the leaves and the grass. Its goodness might even renew again the face of the burnt and blasted earth. He did not know. But unlike Job's comforters he believed there was a supreme goodness that could renew his own soul beyond this wasting sorrow of human life and death.
One of the other book club members said she thought the theme of the book was "learning to love." Mary Lindsay finds a whole shelf full of journals written by her Cousin Mary that help develop the theme.
I had not known before that love is obedience. You want to love, and you can't, and you hate yourself because you can't, and all the time love is not some marvelous thing that you feel but some hard thing that you do. And this in a way is easier because with God's help you can command your will when you can't command your feelings. With us, feelings seem to be important, but He doesn't appear to agree with us. 
It was not a terrible book, but it wasn't a wonderful book, either. It seemed odd that Mary, with her keen insight into all the new neighbors, had nearly no contact with anyone from her previous home in the city. It was also weird to me that she moved out to the house with the idea of coming to know her Cousin Mary, but it's not clear how she would have done that in any meaningful way without conveniently finding the journals. The plot seemed just a little too stilted for me to really give in to it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments make me happy; thanks for speaking up!