‘There is quite a Bloomsbury set, is there not?’
‘There is,’ said Miss Clame, ‘but we’re not in it. We’re just the tiniest bit west, both spiritually and geographically.’
I fell in love with that quotation at first sight, and immediately sought out a copy of Streamers Waiting. It’s in print as a Faber Find, but I found that the Cornish Library Service had thought it a book worth hanging on to, and I called in their copy.
Published in 1925 it tells the story of Miss Lydia Clame. Miss Clame was lovely, but she was a ‘surplus woman,’ one of many who found that after the great war there simply were not enough men to go around. And so she lived in genteel poverty, with two other spinster ladies.
Miss Clame had accomplishments, she had social graces, and she had a wide circle of friends and a busy social life. But it wasn’t enough. She was acutely aware that she was a second-class citizen, that married women would always be one step ahead of her.
She accepted her situation, but at time she struggled, because life’s little setbacks hit so much harder when they have to be faced alone.
She hoped for a happy ending.
What would become of Miss Clame?
I must confess that ‘Streamers Waving’ rather crept up on me.
I found much to admire. Simple and elegant prose. Dialogue that balanced wit and believability perfectly. Characters simply but clearly drawn, revealing just enough for me to understand their significance. A life caught with empathy and understanding. A gentle satire with something to say about its times.
But it took some time for me to realise that Miss Clame had crept into my heart, and that I really cared about what would become of her.
She was bright, she was thoughtful, she was considerate, and she was so very self-aware. But she wasn’t equipped to deal with the changes that the Great War had wrought.
Some coped, indeed some thrived; but others, like Miss Clame, struggled.
A little more plot would have been nice. I would have loved to have seen a little more of Miss Clame’s lodgers: Miss Trelawny who wanted to climb mountains and Miss Smith who painted pottery. But this is a simple story, shining a clear light on one woman’s life.
The end of Miss Clame’s story is moving, and so very well judged.
I’m very glad that I met her.