Because of Sam by Molly Clavering is my first book for the '#1954 Club' which is running all week and is being hosted by Simon and Karen.
Millie Maitland has been a widow for many years, her husband having died only three years after their marriage, but it was long enough to produce a daughter, Amabel, who is now in her late twenties. The two live together in the Scottish Borders in fairly straightened circumstances because Millie's husband left her with no money, although they're fortunate in that they do have a home in a lovely little village.
Luckily, Millie discovered, by accident really, that one way to make money was to take in dogs as boarders for people going away on holiday. Now though, Amabel has a good job in Edinburgh and things are a bit easier. Unfortunately, Amabel was never an easy, amenable child and she's carried this obstreperousness into adulthood. She has a spiteful tongue and never ceases to criticise her mother for anything and everything. Millie copes with this with tolerance and fortitude but her life pretty much revolves around what pleases Amabel, or what Amabel will say about this or that.
The village they live in, Mennan, is peopled with the usual suspects as regards types of people. There's the overbearing, organising woman, the vampish woman who seems to be after everyone's husband, there are young couples and bachelor farmers and so on. Small things cause loads of gossip because there's not a lot else going on and people are thus very wary of village 'talk'. A bachelor farmer, Martin Heriot, decides to ask Millie to board a black Lab, Sam, that belongs to his cousin but there seems to be no end in sight, and Millie's solicitor in Edinburgh, Mr. Ramsey, starts coming to stay at weekends. It doesn't cause gossip but Millie's ordered life starts to become a bit less ordered, especially when she gives some advice to the young couple with the new baby...
I have to say straight off that this is a novel where nothing 'momentous' happens. It's very much a story of very ordinary folk, doing very ordinary things, just like we all do every day of our lives. If you like to read books that're non-stop action where you hardly have time to draw breath before the hero or heroine is off again, hotly pursued by murderers, spies, the police, tripods from the planet Mars, whatever, this is not the book for you.
This is what I would call a 'quiet' novel and I loved it (even though I quite like a pursuit novel from time to time). Millie is a survivor despite being financially poor. She's a genuinely nice person who would do anything for anyone. I felt extremely aggrieved for her when a certain will was read (not her husband's) and her difficulties did not improve. She, on the other hand, accepts whatever life throws at her with equanimity, only occasionally being sharp with people when they go too far. I had the feeling that although she's 'nice', even she has limits. She's no walk-over and just occasionally even shrewish Amabel had to acknowledge that and take a step back. I liked that.
I also like how unashamedly domestic Millie is. For instance she's a wonderful cook, back in the fifties of course domesticity was not seen as a questionable talent the way it might be today. Perhaps 'questionable' is the wrong term, I mean in the manner in which being capably domestic is not valued as much today as it was in the 1950s. And although this book is 'of its time' some things never change and various traits in people, being too organising, overbearing, flirtatious, totally oblivious, selfish, not wanting to give offence to the point of doing something you hate, well that never changes no matter what the year.
I haven't been lucky enough to visit the Scottish Borders, the closest I've managed is a visit to Hadrian's Wall which is a few miles short. Judging by this book I think it must be incredibly pretty and I shall put it onto my 'Hope to go there one day' list. A superb start to the 1954 Club week and I unhesitatingly gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.
Sounds marvellous and a great find for 1954. There are quite a lot of Furrowed Middlebrow titles which qualify, and the setting for this would be right up my street!
I keep hoping someone will gift me all the Furrowed Middlebrow books (including this one which sounds like a good gentle read) but it hasn't happened yet!
I can go with a good 'quiet' storyline sometimes, so long as the writing is good. This is not a 'Golden Age' author I have come across before, and 1954 is just a little before my time! I have recently discovered Furrowed Middlebrow books, so I shall be making room in my schedule for some of them! :)
This does sound like a very good read. A quiet read is fine with me, especially if I have recently read one that is darker. The only thing that might be a distraction is the daughter being constantly critical.
I have this book on the Kindle so I should read it soon. I have not tried any of the Furrowed Middlebrow books yet, although I love most of the covers. Another one I have on the Kindle by the same author is Dear Hugo.
Quiet novels can be quite nice! (Especially when they're set in Scotland.) I think I would like this book. :) So, what 1954 book are you going to read next?
Karen: I'm so thrilled to have found and read this book and consequently 'discovered' Molly Clavering. I thought I had one more of hers on my Kindle but am delighted to discover it's actually two. I think they'll make delightful summer reading.
Sue: Yes! Wouldn't it be nice to be gifted their entire output. I add to my Kindle collection every now and then but also they do a free book for Kindle every Monday. Of course, I don't know if you're a Kindle user.
Yvonne: Luckily, the writing in this book is superb. I too had not come across Molly Clavering until a year or two ago when I discovered Dean Street Press on Twitter. Now I know about a lot of these forgotten female authors and my reading has definitely been enriched by it. I plan to read more over the summer.
Tracy: Well, interestingly enough there is character development in this story and most of it is concerned with the shrewish daughter who learns a few lessons. So the shrewishness does not, by any means, last throughout the whole book. It's well worth your time I think and I'm so pleased to have two more by MC on my Kindle, but not Dear Hugo, I'll go and look at that one later.
Lark: I love a quiet novel too but my love of variety means I don't want to read them all the time. My current 1954 book is Maigret Goes to School by Georges Simenon so from Scotland I've moved to the French Atlantic coast, which is nice as my sister-in-law used to live in that same area and I've visited the actual town.
Sometimes a quiet novel can be just the thing, Cath. It sounds as though these are ordinary characters who face some of the things we do in real life, and that can help a reader connect. I don't think I'd want an unbroken diet of quieter books like this, but sometimes, especially when they're set in the right place, they can be terrific.
Well I love a quiet, domestic novel! This sounds wonderful. I enjoyed Mrs Lorimer's Quiet Summer - or a similar sort of title - by Clavering a while ago, and have to try some more.
I do love how Clavering's characters can surprise you with their sharpness every so often! I find her a bit hit or miss but this one is definitely calling out to me.
Cath, I have already started reading Because of Sam (just one chapter so far) and I can already see that there are possibilities for the daughter. Because I am reading on the Kindle it may take me a while, so not aiming to review it for the 1954 Club.
And I added a few more Clavering books to my Kindle yesterday.
Margot: Yes, exactly... a diet consisting of all quiet books would not be my thing at all but now and then they do hit the spot. And this one did with its very well-drawn characters and that delightful setting.
Simon: Mrs. Lorimer's Quiet Summer is one of the two others I have waiting to be read. I've heard that that one in particular is rather good. I also have Near Neighbours but I'm not sure why, it must be because of a recommendation from somewhere. I now have quite a nice little collection of Dean St. Press books on my Kindle.
Claire: It's always good when someone who seems to be at everyone's beck and call stands up for themselves occasionally. I plan to read more by Molly Clavering and hope they're 'hits' rather than misses.
Tracy: Pleased to hear you're giving the book a good. I must admit once I started it I couldn't stop so I wish you luck in taking your time over it. LOL!
I have a couple more, Mrs. Lorimer's Quiet Summer, which I've heard good things about, and Near Neighbours, which I haven't a clue why I bought it. I think they might do for The 20 Books of Summer challenge if it happens this year.
I meant to read this with you! I am glad you liked it as I still plan to read it. The problem is that downloading books doesn't mean you remember them! And a library book may disappear before I actually remember it is on my iPad, which is unfortunate, but I will try to get it again.
Constance: LOL... oh, I know that downloading books doesn't mean you'll remember them. I don't do library ebook loans, partly because I do not need yet another source of books to stress me out, but also I'm not sure Kindle is one of the ereaders supported. I don't think it is. Do give the book a try at some stage though as it's delightful.
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