I met Mollie Hunter a couple of times: once at a book festival I organised to mark the Carnegie Medal, held at the original Carnegie Library in Dunfermline. Mollie was one of three Scots to win the Medal (for The Stronghold) and she was our guest of honour at an Orcadian ceilidh. The first time I met her, though, was in Edinburgh at the launch of a book called Reading Round Edinburgh. Mollie used the city as a setting for many of her books and some of them are mentioned in the volume edited by Lindsey Fraser and Kathryn Ross. However, my favourite of her books is not mentioned, although it is entirely set in the city.
I read The Dragonfly Years as a teenager not long after it was published. I hadn’t read the book to which it is a sequel (A Sound of Chariots) but that mattered not a whit. I was completely entranced. It’s set in the 1930s against a backdrop of rising fascism at home and abroad. Bridie, the heroine, lives with her strict (perhaps narrow) Brethren grandparents and works in the family florist business. It’s the story of her growing desire to write, to experience more of life, to become her own person – if she can only discover who that is. And it’s the story of her meeting with Peter McKinley and their developing relationship.
I often reread The Dragonfly Years and every time I do I’m gripped again. It stays in my head and when I walk round Edinburgh I subconsciously note places mentioned in the book. I have to let you into a secret. I still haven’t read A Sound of Chariots. For me, Bridie will always belong in The Dragonfly Years.