‘Mrs Lorimer’s Quiet Summer’ by Molly Clavering is the story of one particular summer in Mrs Lorimer’s life, in a small village, set in the Scottish Borders.
Mrs Lorimer and her husband, Colonel Lorimer, a retired army soldier, try to live a quiet life in their small Scottish village. They have a modest circle of acquaintances, reliable domestic help in the home, a close circle of friends and participate, whenever feasible in the main village activities.
Lucy Lorimer is a writer of fictional stories and try as she might to write peacefully in her study at her home, there’s always something that needs her attention. The beginning of the story finds her wishing for a larger family home – so that she might host her rather large family of grown up children and grand children under one roof during the summer. There’s a particular property in the village that has Lucy’s attention but that has been bought by some Glaswegians, which she discovers to her dismay, when her maid informs her one morning, early on in the summer.
“The Legion meetings get all the news that’s going. They just sit there and blather like a lot of old sweetie-wives. It’s a stranger that’s bought Harperslea, a widower with a daughter. Better drink yer tea before it gets cold.”
Lucy Lorimer’s fellow writer friend and neighbour, Grace or ‘Grey’ Douglas comes to the rescue, however, and agrees to host some of the family members at her nearby cottage. All is well and Lucy looks forward to some quality time spent with her family but rather than being the quiet summer that Lucy had hoped for, the children bring along their own troubles and Lucy and her husband must come to the rescue. An old flame from Lucy’s past also resurfaces and Lucy also finds this perturbing to her equilibrium.
This was my first time reading Molly Clavering and I really enjoyed this slow-paced, humorous read. This is a character driven story and the characters are very well drawn. One of the most interesting aspects of this book is the knowledge that the main two characters in the book – Lucy and Grey- are based on the characters of the author DE Stevenson and Molly Clavering herself. Both were neighbours and mutually admired each other’s writing. Whenever I read about Lucy Lorimer, in my mind – she was DE Stevenson. I am such a big fan of Stevenson’s writing and so this book made such an interesting read for me. Whilst I was reading Lucy Lorimer, DE Stevenson and Mrs Tim became one and the same although this might not be wholly accurate.
I found myself flagging a number of quotes that I found amusing. Phrases and witty dialogue. Lucy remarks to her husband one day about returning a book to a neighbour :-
“It’s that book she lent me weeks ago, of very dull reminiscences, and I have read as much of it as I can bear. Why will people insist on lending me books? They are never the ones I want to read.”
In another instance, Grey Douglas remarks about her unmarried status, that of being an old maid.
“Once you get over the shame of being an old maid, there is something to be said for single blessedness.”
To this, Lucy Lorimer remarks that Grey can hardly be categorised as an old maid when she has had marriage proposals. To which Grey responds :
“…one can hardly go about wearing a placard with ‘I’ve had a proposal but I didn’t choose to accept it’ printed on it.”
One of the most humorous characters was that of Colonel Lorimer – whom Clavering turned into a domestic god. His love for his dog, low level tolerance for interfering neighbours, obsession with looking into the quality and washing expedience of the household linens by the local laundrette and many other things made me chuckle. The couples in the book also had varying and interesting relationships. The arrival of new neighbours – in the form of the unfortunately named ‘Smellies’ added interest to the story.
Mostly I enjoyed the description of walks, garden fetes, casual dinners, shopping trips into town and other mild activities. In ways it reminded me of O Douglas’ style – particularly that of ‘Penny Plain’.
What added real value to the story were often the deep and philosophical observations of Molly Clavering.
Though a quiet book and not a brilliant book by any means, Molly Clavering’s story had my heart. I am so looking forward to reading more of her gentle stories.
This e-book was an advance press copy from Dean Street Press but all opinions about the book are my own.