Author: Molly Clavering (1900-1995)
Publication: Dean Street Press/Furrowed Middlebrow, paperback, 2021 (originally published in 1955)
Setting: 1950s BritainDescription: Having lost her fiancé during the war, Sara Monteith decides to make a new home for herself in a small town in the Scottish Borders called Ravenskirk. This is where her fiancé and his brother Hugo grew up so it is natural that she writes to Hugo, working as a doctor in Africa, with light-hearted updates on her new home and neighbors, some of whom are friendly and some critical. In addition to managing the surprising number of social obligations, Sara is unexpectedly asked to take responsibility for her cousin’s son, 13-year-old Arthur called Atty. Although Atty goes to boarding school in Edinburgh, he adapts easily to holidays in the country with Sara, and he fills a hole in her life as Ravenskirk becomes a real home to both. The story is character-centered, featuring quiet humor mingled with more serious observations.
My Impression: Scott at Furrowed Middlebrow got me interested in Molly Clavering, an author I had not previously heard of. In my opinion, Clavering’s style resembles that of E.M. Delafield more than D.E. Stevenson; dry commentary more than laugh-out-loud humor, and Stevenson would have concluded this story more romantically, but the ending fit the characters and I enjoyed it. Scott reported that Clavering was Stevenson's neighbor and friend in Moffat, a small village that inspired Ravenskirk.
Like a fool I had said how lucky I considered myself in having been able to buy the little house at a price I could raise.Sara’s letters to Hugo reveal her humor and also her talent for friendship with a variety of people. Rationing still exists and when one of Sara’s guests is too lavish with the butter, Sara notices but decides it is worth it to have gained an outgoing new acquaintance. Now that Scott has brought eight of Clavering’s books back into print, I look forward to continuing my exploration of her work. Which one should I read next?
With a pitying smile she said, “But of course, Miss Monteith, you understand that this is not near the best part of Ravenskirk.” And stalked away.