Category Archives: Clavering, Molly

Near Neighbors by Molly Clavering

Near NeighboursNear Neighbours
by Molly Clavering
Rating: ★★★★★
Publication Date: January 1, 1956
Genre: fiction
ReRead?: No
Project: a century of women

At number 6 Kirkcaldy Crescent lives Mrs. Lennox and her five children (all in their late teens or early twenties). Number 4, the house next door, Miss Balfour, a gentle and unassuming spinster who was constantly surprised to find "how astonishingly nice and good people were when you knew them..."

What she did not know and would not have believed was that the people who knew her could not help living up to her belief in their good qualities.

This was the third of my DSP in December books. You can find out more about DSP December which is the brainchild of Liz from Adventures in Reading…: here.

It was also my second by Molly Clavering – last year I read Mrs. Lorrimer’s Quiet Summer, and while I liked it, it didn’t wow me the way that Near Neighbours did. I found this book completely delightful. The interactions between the main character, Miss Dorothea Balfour, and her young neighbors, the four Lennox children, are charming and heart-warming.

Molly Clavering was D.E. Stevenson’s neighbor and her books are similar in tone. This one is actually set in Edinburgh, so it is a town book as opposed to a country book. There is lots of lovely detail around the activities of all the young people as they are beginning to form their relationships as young adults. The book really focuses on Rowan Lennox, who is the first of the young adults to venture a friendship with Miss Balfour. Miss Balfour has previously been under the thumb of her older sister who has passed away and who kept her very isolated. She blossoms under the attention of the family next door and begins to really live her own life for the first time.

I will definitely be reading more Clavering at this point, and will likely reread this one in the future.

Mrs. Lorimer’s Quiet Summer by Molly Clavering

Mrs. Lorimer's Quiet SummerMrs. Lorimer's Quiet Summer
by Molly Clavering
Rating: ★★★½
Publication Date: January 1, 1953
Genre: fiction
Pages: 192

The two were friends and had been for many years before Miss Douglas, a little battered by war experiences, had settled down in Threipford, to Mrs. Lorimer's quiet content. ... Both wrote; each admired the other's work. Lucy possessed what Gray knew she herself would never have, a quality which for want of a better name she called "saleability."

In what is surely Molly Clavering's most autobiographical novel, two middle-aged women writers, close friends and neighbours, offer one another advice and support while navigating life in a lively Border village. Lucy Lorimer, the more successful author, with her four children, in-laws, and grandchildren gathered for a summer reunion, must try to avert disaster in one daughter's marriage, help a daughter-in-law restless with mundane married life after flying planes in the war, and deal with the awkward reappearance of an old flame. Unmarried Grace ('Gray') Douglas, meanwhile, has struggles of her own, but is drawn delightfully into her friend's difficulties.

In real life, Molly Clavering was herself for many years a neighbour and close friend of bestselling author D.E. Stevenson. First published in 1953, Mrs. Lorimer's Quiet Summer is not only an irresistible family story, but undoubtedly provides some indication of the inspiring friendship between these two brilliantly talented women. This new edition includes an introduction by Elizabeth Crawford.

I can’t emphasize enough how much I appreciate the Dean Street Press and their Furrowed Middlebrow imprint. There isn’t a single one of their reprints that doesn’t look absolutely terrific to me. Some of them appeal more strongly than others, but I could put them in a randomizer, and I’d read whatever popped up (in fact, this is an idea that I may implement).

This is a very quiet book. Molly Clavering was, as I understand it, neighbors and friends with D.E. Stevenson, another author that I enjoy. This is one of those mid-century books written by English women in which nothing really happens, but which is still deeply satisfying, with scenes of village life and the Scottish landscape.

The title is, of course, very tongue-in-cheek, because Mrs. Lorimer’s summer is anything but quiet. She and her husband are empty-nesters with four children, some of whom have spouses and children of their own. During the summer, all four of the children come home, not merely for a visit, but because there is some crisis in their lives that they have to solve. Mrs. Lorimer doesn’t do the solving for them, but home is a catalyst to put things in order that have come a bit undone.

There’s no murders, no mayhem, no real mysteries to solve. Nonetheless, there are conflicts and tensions that arise, and small family travails that need to be resolved. As in life.