My Lockdown Books: Forty Six

As many of you will know, Jean Estoril was one of Mabel Esther Allan’s pseudonyms.  I, however, did not know that when I came across Drina Dances in Italy in this edition in Lossiemouth Library.  It’s the fourth book in the Drina series so I had a bit of catching up to do but I loved the book and quickly set about finding the others.  Only the first six were published in this Collins Ballet Library series and for a long time I was unaware that there were in fact another four books (at that time; an eleventh was published much later).

Drina is half Italian, half English orphan who lives with her maternal (English) grandparents.  It turns out that she is in fact the daughter of a world-famous ballerina, although she only discovers this at the end of the first book.  Her two sets of grandparents fought over the right to bring her up and this book sees her first meeting with her Italian grandmother.

In small ways the Drina books cross with some of the books published under Mabel Esther Allan’s own name.  I remember being puzzled when the Lingeraux Ballet School and Company appeared in Black Forest Summer and later (in terms of my reading history) in Amanda  Goes to Italy.  I had first come across it in Drina.  I have a theory that the books Amanda starts writing in Italy are a variation on the Drina books – which, I admit, is maybe far-fetched.  An author putting her pseudonymous creation as fiction into another of her books, published in her own name,  maybe says more about the convoluted way my mind works!

15th December

I discovered the Drina books by Jean Estoril serendipitously in Lossiemouth Library as a child. I read them in a random order as and when they were available. And only the first six, which had been recently re-issued, were available at all. The last of these chronologically is Drina Dances in New York, set partly in that city and partly on board a transatlantic liner. I may have said before that I grew up with my Mum’s stories of sailing to Australia and back, and ship-board life had always fascinated me. And I was a great reader of ballet stories so this was a combination guaranteed to appeal. I still re-read the Drina books and I now have all of them, including Drina Ballerina, published MUCH later than the others when the series was issued in paperback. I have them in a variety of editions as I find their publishing history fascinating. They’ve been updated over the years but haven’t suffered too badly. Honestly, I could have selected any of the books for inclusion in this list but the description of life at sea probably brought Drina Dances in New York into my mind first!

A few years ago Greyladies, a small independent publisher, re-issued some of the books of Susan Pleydell, a mid-twentieth century Scottish writer. I enjoyed them (Summer Term and A Young Man’s Fancy) so much that I checked the library catalogue to see if we had any of the rest of her ten novels. And thus I found Brighouse Hotel, her final offering. It’s set in the fictional Glen Torran somewhere unspecified – between Inverness and Fort William is my best guess – in the Highlands. Clunie Ritchie, a regular visitor to the area as a teenager, suddenly finds herself homesick for the mountains. So when the receptionist at Brighouse Hotel is rushed into hospital, Clunie is delighted to deputise. The hotel, as well as being frequented by walkers and fishers, is the local Mountain Rescue base and much of the plot revolves around this. But really this is a story about people and relationships and how both change and develop. It’s a charming novel without being at all cloying and enough of the real world of the 1970s intrudes to make it believable.

Revising and Updating Books: some thoughts occasioned by re-reading Jean Estoril

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been re-reading the Drina books by Jean Estoril (Mabel Esther Allan).  I really liked these books as a child; I discovered them for myself in the library in Lossiemouth.  The first one I read was Drina Dances in Italy, the fourth title in the series, which was a bit confusing but I struggled through!

I read the first six titles eventually and thought for a long time that that was them all.  I was reading them as published by Collins as part of the Collins Ballet Library and, to the best of my knowledge, only these six were ever published in that edition.  The next one I read was Drina Goes on Tour, at that time the last in the series.  I discovered that in a charity shop or a secondhand bookshop and from it I found out that there were another three titles (numbers 7-9 in the series).  I got hold of those eventually and that’s when I realised that there had been some updating going on.

Later on (I think in the 1990s) the books were published in paperback by Simon & Schuster.  They had beautiful covers and I couldn’t resist buying them.  Naturally that meant I read them again and saw that they had been updated further.  Exctingly for me, another title was also published at this time.  As far as I know, Drina Ballerina was newly-written and it clearly went with the updated updated books!

I don’t know who decided that the books needed revised or why it was thought necessary.  In this case, it only works to an extent, partly because of the travel element of the books.  It made me wonder how other people feel about revisions and if there are any other good or bad examples…