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.