The Scent of Water by Alison Hoblyn

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The Scent of Water by Alison Hoblyn

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: A warm and gentle book about a group of people who meet in Italy for a course in creative gardening, leading to new relationships of many kinds. Good bedtime reading.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 352 Date: November 2005
Publisher: Transita
ISBN: 978-1905175178

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Ellie, an artist in her late forties who is recovering from the unexpected death of her husband, enrolls on a course in Italy to learn about creative gardening. She makes new friends who have a lasting impact on her life, as she gradually comes to terms with the past.

The first half of the book takes place during the course, including some interesting descriptions of visits to spectacular gardens. The author is herself an artist, and her love of art comes across clearly in many ways. I have to admit to skimming in places, as I find people more interesting than art, and found the details a bit long-winded, but that's just my taste. Those who revel in beauty and word pictures would probably love this aspect of the book.

By the time the action moves back to the UK, Ellie is clearly established as an independent and likeable woman who did her best in a difficult marriage, and who dearly loves her two grown-up children. Life has not been kind to her - her husband was not skilled in foresight, and had some financial disasters shortly before he died - but she makes the most of it, enjoying simple pleasures and taking comfort from her Christian faith.

The story unfolds slowly and gently, on the whole, making this a pleasant and undemanding read, although some of the themes are not light. There are one or two shocking moments, though nothing graphic; but mostly the mood is mellow, in realistic settings. It was very readable, but easy to put down, and I had no inclination to read more than a chapter or so each evening.

If you're a middle-aged Christian artist, interested in Italian gardens, then I expect this book would appeal strongly. If you have just one of those traits, then it would probably be worth reading. But don't expect fast action or excitement; the romance element is very low-key, and the characters are pleasant rather than inspiring any deep connections.

If you like this type of book then you might also enjoy Maeve Binchy's Evening Class which also looks at a group of people with an interest in Italy. Sue Moorcroft's Uphill All The Way is another book about a middle-aged woman who has to come to terms with the death of a loved one.

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Buy The Scent of Water by Alison Hoblyn at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Scent of Water by Alison Hoblyn at


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