As a writer, I particularly enjoy describing scent. So it may not be surprising that Scent of Sorrow was the original title of my debut novel CITY OF SORROWS. Why? Because for many of us, the scent is the story.
In CITY OF SORROWS, the scent that both seduces and torments the novel’s protagonist, Diego Vargas, is the orange blossom. If you have ever walked the streets of Seville in the early evening on a warm spring night, you will identify with this smell. It is the perfume of the azahar, of Andalusia. Of romantic evenings strolling cobblestone streets lit by iron lanterns. It is illusion. Youth. Romance. Freedom.
But for Diego Vargas, the scent is bittersweet. It is passion. Pain. A heavy reminder of his loss. And eventually, healing.
The iconic scent of Seville is the orange blossom. As Holy Week nears however, it is often overpowered by clouds of acrid incense that hang heavily in the air.
For the antagonist, Andrés, it is this scent that stirs up heightened emotion: the pungent incense that wafts over the city in the weeks leading up to Holy Week. As he says in the book, “Holy Week is the highlight and harbinger of spring.” (page 212, CITY OF SORROWS). And no scent announces spring quite as effectively in Seville as the aroma of burnt incense.
Being neither Catholic nor Sevillana, these are not scents that I grew up with in New England. But I have grown to love the delicate aroma of the orange blossom. I love the sweet, seductive smell of this small white flower. The way its perfume floats on the air on a warm spring night, announcing the intoxicating olfactory arrival of primavera. I also remember with fondness the smoky sharpness of burnt incense. Of Easter and Semana Santa. To me, orange blossoms and incense takes me back to a special time in my life when I was young and in love. To that magical city of Seville.