"Dragon Land" is written by bestselling Scottish novelist Maureen Reynolds. This lovely story follows the life of Dundee girl Lizzie Flint from her sixth birthday, in August 1917, to the start of World War Two, with a concluding chapter set in 1952. Her sixth birthday is the day on which the telegram arrives informing the family that her father is missing in action in France, something her mother never accepts. The turning point in Lizzie's life comes with the death of her mother in 1932. Up to that point her horizons have rarely extended beyond the confines of Dundee, though that does nothing to stop her dreaming that one day she might become a pirate.
After her mother dies, Lizzie moves in with her aunt, Margaret, in Carnoustie. Margaret is married to a diplomat and has lived in many places around the world. She also has a wide network of contacts, and as a result hears of a teaching post in Hong Kong that would be ideally suited to Lizzie, who had started teaching prior to her mother's death.
Suddenly the dark and claustrophobic confines of 1930s Dundee are stripped away as Lizzie begins to experience the wider world. She quickly becomes established in Hong Kong, where her love of books brings her into contact with author and journalist Jonas O'Neil. The story of Lizzie's life changes gear again as she marries Jonas and moves to live with him in Shanghai, where they have a son. But war again intervenes as the Japanese rampage across China, and circumstances force Lizzie, Jonas and their son apart as the world descends into brutal chaos around them and death stalks the streets of Shanghai.
This is a book that can be enjoyed on many different levels. On the one hand it can be read simply as the beautifully written story of two decades of the life of an individual we come to like and care for as she takes the chances that fate offers her to pursue her dreams, and finds that some of them can become nightmares. On another level it can be seen as a story of the enduring power of friendship and, especially, of love, in the face of unimaginable adversity. And at a third level the very different feel and outlook of the two halves of the book, before and after Lizzie's departure for Hong Kong, serves as a very effective way of setting the Dundee of the 1920s and 1930s within the context of the wider world at the time.