Mrs Lorimer’s Quiet Summer

A review of Mrs Lorimer’s Quiet Summer by Molly Clavering

Three confessions: this is not my normal reading fare, I have never read Molly Clavering before, and this was a pre-publication copy provided by the excellent Dean Street Press. I like to think I am catholic in my tastes, perhaps drawing the line at science fiction and erotica, and was happy to give this a go. It was an easy read, Clavering having an almost conversational style, a wry sense of humour and a propensity to use a memorable turn of phrase, making this an ideal comfort read.

Molly Clavering had a good innings, dying in 1995 at the age of 95, and this was her eighth novel, originally published in 1953 and now reissued by Dean Street Press. Published in the States under the more prosaic and certainly less ironic title of Mrs Lorimer’s Family, it is probably her best-known work. She lived in the Borders’ town of Moffatt, a near neigbour of Dorothy E Stevenson and the book is considered to be a tad autobiographical. Both the eponymous Mrs Lorimer and her close friend, Grace Douglas, nicknamed Gray, are writers, the former more commercially successful than the latter. It is easy to see Stevenson in Lucy Lorimer and the slightly envious spinster Clavering in the unmarried Gray and that Threipford is Moffat.

It is a truism that you can choose your friends but not your family. For parents and grandparents the prospect of the extended family descending on you for a week, which stretches to ten days, can be a prospect to savour and look back on with affection but the reality can be fraught and trying.  Mrs Lorimer is faced with the prospect of entertaining all of her children together with spouses and a gaggle of grandchildren in a house which is not large enough to accommodate them all. Gray, indeed, has to kindly provide overflow accommodation.

Her daughter, Phillis, is a tempestuous, rather spoilt, over-dramatic woman who feels that she is being neglected by her husband in favour of his car. It is easy to sympathise with the poor chap. Phillis raises the emotional temperature of the house and eventually writes hubby’s car off. Towards the end of the book, she leaves her husband in another fit of pique, but her father makes her see sense.  

Mrs Lorimer’s youngest son and favourite, Guy, arrives having discovered that his love interest, Ivy, has done the dirty on him and married another with him suffering a further indignity by having to be in the guard of honour at the wedding ceremony. On the rebound he falls for the charms of a girl who has just moved into the village with her father. They have the unfortunate surname of Smellie and much, rather juvenile, humour is made at their expense. Lucy vehemently disapproves of the growing romantic liaison and it is left to Gray to make her and Mr Smellie see sense and let love take its natural course.   

There is a frisson of concern when Lucy’s old beau, Richard, appears on the scene after an absence of thirty-two years. As often is the way when you meet an old flame, the encounter brings home to you precisely why you did not pursue the relationship. Her husband finds solace in his dog but steps up to the plate when he is needed. He comes across as a warm, slightly well used comfort blanket. Through all the turmoil Gray provides a shoulder to cry on, a sounding board and the purveyor of words of wisdom. We all need a friend like that.

It was an enjoyable if undemanding read and one that will encourage me to seek out more of her books.

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