I did mention that Mabel Esther Allan would feature largely in this set of posts and here she is again using her own name. Blue Dragon Days, published in 1958, is Jane Graydon’s story. More than anything Jane longs to travel and eventually her wish is fulfilled when she is offered a job in the office of the Blue Dragon Travel Agency in Genoa. She goes to Italy with her mother’s reluctant agreement. Mrs Graydon is Italian, from a well-known Genoese family who cut her off when she married a penniless Englishman. She has not seen, or heard from, them since. Jane’s father, Giovanna Lerrante’s second husband, persuades his wife that Jane is unlikely to come across such a prominent family in her position. But, of course, she does. She meets her cousins and, although she is aware that her mother would be hurt and upset, she cannot resist furthering the acquaintance.

Mabel Esther Allan gives us a vivid picture of Jane’s life in Genoa. She enjoys her work in the travel agency in spite of her colleague Martha who is jealous of her and makes things difficult. Her other colleagues are welcoming and helpful and Jane falls in love with Italy. The author is pretty clear that Genoa is an industrial, and not particularly attractive, city but Jane (and one assumes Mabel) finds pleasure in it and much to enjoy.

Lerrante cousins

However, it’s not to Genoa that the book makes me want to go but to the Italian Riviera. Camogli, Portofino, Rapallo, Santa Margherita Ligure… Mabel Esther Allan makes them all sound so picturesque, atmospheric and romantic. I’m not passionate about Italy, although I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen, but I would like to visit these small towns and villages. However, I fear that really I’d like to visit them in the 1950s. I have a horrible feeling that now I might find them to be too full of tourists (yes, like me) and over-commercialised. And that’s part of the problem with reading books that inspire you to visit: other people will have been inspired too!

Jane visits these villages and loves them but, all the time, her mind is full of the Lerrantes and the fact that she is deceiving her mother. Things only get worse when she meets the girls’ brother Andrea and begins to fall for his charms. She is relieved to be offered unexpectedly the chance to work in the Rome office for a week. Rome is a city that she is able to whole-heartedly embrace and it is there that her problems are resolved.

2 Comments

  1. I was so pleased when I went upstairs to look, realized I owned this one as Romance in Italy, and settled down for a reread. A delightful book that was in my childhood library. I liked that MAE doesn’t gloss over Jane’s initial loneliness but shows how she musters her wits, and Andrea is dreamy. I guess MAE didn’t want to have cousins marry? Most British authors don’t mind that at all.

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