Review :: Allegra in Three Parts :: Suzanne Daniel

June 18, 2019

I feel like I'm reading so many amazing new female voices in fiction this year, and I'm back today with another debut novel from an Australian woman - Allegra in Three Parts by Suzanne Daniel.
Here's the description from the Pan Macmillan website...

I can split myself in two... something I have to do because of Joy and Matilde. They are my grandmothers and I love them both and they totally love me but they can't stand each other.

Eleven-year-old Allegra shuttles between her grandmothers who live next door to one another but couldn't be more different. Matilde works all hours and instils discipline, duty and restraint. She insists that Allegra focus on her studies to become a doctor.

Meanwhile free-spirited Joy is full of colour, possibility and emotion, storing all her tears in little glass bottles. She is riding the second wave of the women's movement in the company of her penny tortoise, Simone de Beauvoir, encouraging Ally to explore broad horizons and live her 'true essence'.

And then there's Rick who lives in a flat out the back and finds distraction in gambling and solace in surfing. He's trying to be a good father to Al Pal, while grieving the woman who links them all but whose absence tears them apart. 

Allegra is left to orbit these three worlds wishing they loved her a little less and liked each other a lot more. Until one day the unspoken tragedy that's created this division explodes within the person they all cherish most.

There is something I really enjoy about seeing a story about the adult world told through the eyes of a child - the way the story unfurls as their understanding of what is happening around them grows can be really effective, and the gaps left by their naivety can give a really delicate treatment to heavy issues.  I feel like Suzanne Daniel nailed this narrative technique with Allegra in Three Parts. Allegra is pulled between people and worlds that she is getting little peeks into, without being told the whole story, and the way she learns more about what is going on - and we with her - felt really authentic.

I thought Allegra was a likeable character to spend time in such intimate quarters with, and also relatable - despite the quirks and challenges of her family situation the issues and concerns she deals with throughout the story were things a lot of us make our way through in our teen-ish years. If anything I thought perhaps she felt a bit too relatable and modern - I kept forgetting that this story was set in the 1970s. Speaking of the setting, one of my favourite things about this book was that it had an undeniably Australian feel, despite the things that signal it as being set in Australia being subtly written and not in your face.

There were a number of difficult issues discussed in this one, and in particular I want to give a content warning for domestic violence.

Overall, this was an enjoyable coming-of-age read about love and family, the ways we deal with trauma and grief, and how this impacts our relationships with each other, ourselves, and our world. I'd recommend it for readers who enjoy getting an inside view into the complexities of someone else's family life.

xo Bron

Allegra in Three Parts by Suzanne Daniel
Out now from Pan Macmillan Australia

On Goodreads

Source: Free copy sent to me by Pan Macmillan
Category: Australian family drama/contemporary fiction (1970s)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 294
Australian RRP: $29.99

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  1. This book sounds so interesting!
    And I am so compelled to read it from your thoughts and review.
    I'm glad you enjoyed it! 💜