"She would have to create herself somewhere else, in some other context.The one thing she couldn't experience in her daily life, continuity, she was finally learning to experience inside herself. She was not her house, not her work, not even her body. She was a living creation, and creation is constantly changing. The thought was a break in the clouds."
Ellie is a woman who finds herself middle-aged and widowed, but she's not precisely a grieving widow. Her marriage to her husband hadn't been the stuff of dreams, though it hadn't been completely horrible either. What it had been was a marriage held together through habit, as so many marriages are.
After the loss of her husband Ellie is free to pursue her own interests, and make her own way. Joining a group of other students she travels to Tuscany where she enrolls in a garden course. She meets and becomes friends with an older woman named Nerine, and also a much younger man named Max. Both characters bring her out of herself, giving her two completely different perspectives on her life. In a manner reminiscent of The Enchanted April, Ellie explores her soul, and the true nature of what she wants to do with the rest of her life, in a romantic Tuscan setting teeming with life and art.
Max, the younger man, is interesting and provocative to Ellie. He's clearly interested in her, but she has to take a step back. The question in her mind is could this possibly work, considering both the age gap and the other disturbing differences she notices when he doesn't think she's aware of them. At the conclusion of the course she goes home, still conflicted:
"She had no peace. No peace, no purpose. the certainty that she had experienced standing in front of Primavera, where had it gone? She stood in her garden and prayed that God might do with her life what he would. Could she truly believe that would change things? Was it only in books, where life could be shaped and edited, that change seemed to happen immediately and consequentially? In real life change seeped up in unexpected places like a spring. It was the scent of water making the dry ground into a musky seedbed."
Not long after arriving back home she hears from Salvatore, the man who'd owned the palazzo in Tuscany where she and the other students had stayed. Salvatore's married, but his marriage is very much on the rocks. He and Ellie get along well. They speak the same language, in so many ways. Still uncertain as to how prudent it really is to pursue this relationship, Ellie finds she still doesn't have a firm handle on what she really wants for her life. Once again, she's conflicted between what she thinks she wants and what she thinks she should do.
The Scent of Water explores what happens to a woman when she's suddenly cut free from a long relationship that's kept her from being happy. Hoblyn explores both the euphoria of release and the fear of having to plunge in and make a real decision for the first time in a long time, which is something a lot of women will immediately identify with, especially if they've experienced the end of a long-term marriage.
The book has a sort of Room With a View feel to it that's at once charming and sensual in the way Italian settings generally are. It has romantic elements, but it's not technically a romance. It delves deeper into the angst associated with Ellie's situation to be dismissed as mere romance for romance's sake. It's a read that's on the lighter side, but for those who've been where Ellie is, it's sure to resonate.
Published by: Transita Publishing