I’ve been reading Mabel Esther Allan’s books for about forty years. I’ve collected them more seriously recently but have limited myself to her teenage novels as her output was prolific. Originally I was only interested in the travel romances but now I’ve branched out into the mysteries as well.
I have visited more places than I’d realised because of her books or to see specific things she mentions in them: Kandersteg, Lugano, Montmartre, Lindau… The list goes on. Mabel loved to travel but hated to be a tourist and I can relate to that. I love travelling and trying to blend in.
A Summer at Sea is almost my perfect travel novel. As you do if you’re a middle class girl who’s not interested in a career and has been unwell, Gillian gets herself a temporary job in the shop on board a small cruise ship. (Actually her aunt, who works for the company and is well in with the Captain, gets it for her.) I read this one as an adult and I was so jealous! Not only does she spend a summer at sea, but she visits Bergen multiple times.
Bergen is one of my favourite places in the world and I have only ever been there when embarking or disembarking a ship. But that’s not as a result of this book. I first visited Bergen on its own merits and because it is the departure point of the Hurtigruten ships. The Bergen in this book, set in the 1960s, is very different to the Bergen I know in terms of economy and tourism but the geography of the city is perfectly recognisable.
Oh, to be able to spend a summer at sea in Norway. I’m saving up to do two Hurtigruten coastal sailings back to back. That might have to do!