Miss Dorothea Balfour was nearer seventy than sixty, but there was something childlike about her … She felt rather like a child, a lost, bewildered child, and she was doing what Belle had always objected to so strongly: staring out of the window at 'those rather odd persons next-door' . . .
Shy, uncertain Miss Balfour is still finding her way after the sudden death of her domineering sister Belle, who-following a failed marriage many years ago-had returned home and made a career of brow-beating her meeker sibling (her memorable final words were 'Don't be a fool Dottie'). But Dorothea soon begins exploring her newfound freedom, observing and then becoming happily enmeshed in the doings of her neighbours, the widowed Mrs. Lenox and her five unusual and charming children, with whom Belle had always forbidden contact. Domestic challenges, romantic difficulties, and efforts to aid a painter's abandoned family-all are facilitated by Dorothea's calm intelligence. And before long she has drama of her own, from her spontaneous rescue of an endangered child to her encounter with Belle's long-lost husband, from whom she learns some surprising secrets.
Molly Clavering was for many years herself a near neighbour and friend of bestselling author D.E. Stevenson, and they may well have influenced one another's writing. Originally published in 1956 and set vividly in postwar Edinburgh, Near Neighbours is one of Clavering's most cheerful and amusing tales. This new edition includes an introduction by Elizabeth Crawford.