Mabel Esther Allan has already appeared in this month’s posts in the guise of Jean Estoril, one of her many pseudonyms. In her own name I first met her in one of two books. At this distance I can’t remember which came first! The title I’ve selected for this month is The Vine-Clad Hill, one of her travel romances – as I describe them in my head. In this one eighteen-year-old Philippa goes to Bellinzona for the summer to help look after three younger cousins. In trademark MEA style the adventure begins with a beautifully described journey from London to Switzerland. I still wish I could travel by train in the fifties when it seems to have been so much more glamorous than it is now! It’s for her descriptions of places that Mabel Esther Allan is most appreciated and she certainly made Bellinzona come to life for me. One day, perhaps, I’ll get to see it in reality.
Rosamunde Pilcher’s books came into my life through The Shell Seekers, a must-read book of its time. Much as I enjoyed it, it is another of her long family stories that I tend to return to. September is set in rural Scotland and revolves around a few wealthy and/or titled families who gather for a ball. Although the immediate action takes place in the month of September, there are many back stories intertwined with it and with each other. There’s wonderful characterisation and engrossing storytelling and evocative description. All in all it’s a book that welcomes me in and keeps a hold of me from start to finish.