” What is the scent of water? Renewal.”
– Elizabeth Goudge –
What a joy to talk about one of my very favourite books. It’s a book that is full of meaning for me, changed how I looked at things, but you know, it is in the end simply a lovely story, well written, about people who for the most part are doing their best, who struggle with their own selves. At its heart this is a tale of redemption.
“ It was called The Laurels, though there wasn’t a laurel in sight. The lilacs had grown so tall that their branches hung over the wall and over the arch above the door. Four steps led up to the door and they were very worn in the middle. What would be behind the door Mary couldn’t imagine. Not the world she knew.”
It is the story of a middle-aged woman who inherits a house in the deep English countryside from a cousin she had met only once as a small child.
And so Mary Lindsay arrives in the village of Appleshaw to take up her inheritance. And we know that this house, the bricks and mortar are not the true legacy, the real gift. Mary Lindsey has come to get to know herself, to learn to love, to become acquainted with the deep countryside.
As she reads Cousin Mary’s diaries, we find out that for her the right to live in that house was hard won. It was a place of respite, a sanctuary, not just a place to be happy but a place to shelter when her poor mind made her afraid and desperate.
On her first day in the house the young Cousin Mary says: “Who will live after me in this house? Who will sit in the little parlour reading by the fire?…. I don’t know who she is but I loved her the moment I walked into this room.… I shall have my sorrows in this house, but I will pray for her that she may reap a harvest of joy.”
This sense of connection up and down the years resonates throughout the book: “Nothing is ever over, says Jean. You thread things on your life and think you have finished with them, but you haven’t because it’s like beads on a string and they come round again. “
Mary says: “When it comes round again then if it is possible give what you failed to give before to someone else. You will have made reparation for we all are one person.”
You will meet nice people in this book, good people, bad people but all of them real people. And they will stand before you clear as day. And you will be the better for having gotten to know them.