BOOK CLUB: Allegra in Three Parts

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Author: Suzanne Daniel
ISBN: 978-1-76078-171-2
RRP: $29.99
Publication Date: 29 May 2019
Pan Macmillan
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

Allegra in Three Parts sounds like an insightful and interesting look at family and the pressure that comes from families that don’t get along.

Allegra is an 11 year old girl who shares her time between her grandmothers, polar opposites who live side by side and do not get along.

Rick is Allegra’s father and he lives in a flat out the back. He buries his grief in gambling and surfing while trying to be a good father.

Allegra in Three Parts is set in the 1970s and captures the Australia of that time, taking the reader back to a simpler time.

I have heard some really great things about this debut novel, written in the voice of an eleven year old girl. A voice that is quite tricky to capture, and by the accounts I’ve read Daniel has managed to nail it.

A tale of family, loss and the struggle to connect. I look forward to finding the time for this one, and I especially look forward to reading what our members think.

Synopis from Goodreads:
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.

You can follow Suzanne Daniel on Facebook and her Website.

Allegra in Three Parts is available now through Pan Macmillan and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan 15 of our Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading Allegra in Three Parts so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

14 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Allegra in Three Parts

  1. Absolutely adored this book!! I read it and wish so much they would make a great Aussie movie based on it!! Just brilliantly written!! I know, I’m gushing! But it has such a wonderful read. I couldn’t put it down and finished it over 2 days! Loved the beautiful descriptions of Allegras wonderfully different loving grandmothers, each of their strength and weaknesses and most of all their love. The shy and deep bond between Rick her surfer dad as well. The story tells us of the depths of love, the strength and women under the worst circumstances and the deep bonds we rely on to carry us through the ups and downs of life. The book beautiful tells its tale of complicated bonds of love within a family unit and how they can twist and fray, strengthen and support us in our hardest times and yet at times do us the most damage, even when the intent is just to love.

  2. Many thanks to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Pan Macmillan Australia for the opportunity to read and review Suzanne Daniel’s debut novel Allegra in Three Parts.

    The story is set in NSW in the 1970’s with the main character, an 11 year old girl named Allegra living with her grandma Matilde at Number 23. Matilde is a Hungarian Jew and survivor of the Holocaust and concentration camps. Allegra’s father Rick also lives at Number 23, in the flat above the garage, but apart from plating up his dinner, ironing his boardshorts and ticking her tongue when she hears the horse races on the radio coming from his room, Matilde effectively ignores his existence.

    Allegra’s other grandma Joy lives next door at Number 25. Joy and Matilde are like chalk and cheese. Where Matilde has a garden full of vegetables that she cooks with, and three laying chooks, Joy has a garden full of flowers, a pond in which lives the penny tortoise Simone de Beauvoir and windchimes hanging from the frangipani trees. All communication between Joy and Matilde is through Allegra who doesn’t understand why three people who all love her so much don’t or won’t talk to each other.

    Allegra attends St Brigid’s Catholic primary school and is in her final year. She is picked on by Kimberley Linton and the rest of the popular group because she is smart, her mother is dead, and unlike the other students brings strange Hungarian foods in her lunchbox, in other words, she is different. But this year something miraculous has happened, she has made a friend, Patricia O’Brien.

    As the tale evolves we learn why Joy collects all her tears in little glass jars, how Matilde makes her cherry strudel (and the importance of Lizt in making it), issues such as the treatment of women in clothing factories, and their relationship with the outworkers who are paid by the piece, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence and the efforts made to set up the first women’s refuge in Sydney are raised and slowly Allegra begins to piece together how her family fits together, what happened to her mum, and why the three most important people in her life don’t seem to love each other.

    As someone who arrived in Australia in 1973 as a 13 year old I very much related to the Australia of the time that Daniel’s portrays. While by today’s standards Allegra seems to be unaware of, or innocent about, many things, this was indicative of that time. Children were not exposed to life in the same way as children are nowadays with access to live news and social media, in many ways life was simpler, and in other ways more confusing because it was harder to get straight answers.

    I did find a point of contention with regards to Allegra undergoing confirmation and sought clarification from Suzanne Daniel on this point. I felt that it was unlikely that Allegra would have been accepted for confirmation as she inherited her religion through the female line which made her Jewish, and that, taking her parentage into account, it was unlikely that she would have been baptized into the Catholic faith. Daniel’s view was that Rick was Catholic and had attended St Brigid’s, Matilde had to all intents and purposes turned her back on her religion as a result of her experiences during the war, the nun’s were aware that Allegra’s mother had died while she was still young, and in their compassion in the 70’s were likely to have “overlooked” issues of eligibility. I leave it to other reader’s to form their own view on this. As the events of confirmation day are integral to how the story plays out, while the fact that Allegra has been confirmed are not, this has not impacted on my enjoyment of the book, or my rating.

    One other minor point, Daniel’s refers in the book to Devon, this is the term used in the Eastern States of Australia for the sandwich meat often served with tomato sauce which is known in Western Australia as Polony and South Australia as Fritz (although there is some argument as to whether the ingredients are identical in each of these varieties).

    I found the book to be an overall enjoyable easy read, finishing it in one sitting. Recommended for those interested in life in the 1970’s compared with today, or just looking for an easy reading yarn. I give it 4 stars.

  3. Allegra In Three Parts by Suzanne Daniel
    What a lovely, heartwarming book narrated by 11 year old Allegra.
    Allegra leads a happy but confused life.
    Her Mother died when she was very young but no one will tell her about her or how she died.
    As her Father wasn’t able to cope with raising Allegra, her two Grandmothers took on that job. Only problem is the Grandmothers don’t get along with each other.
    They live next door to each other with Allegra’s Father, Rick living above the garage.
    All three of them love Allegra dearly and she loves them. All Allegra wants is to please everyone and make them proud of her.
    She describes her heart as having three compartments. One for the strict Polish Grandmother, one for the Women’s Libber, hippy Grandmother and one for her Dad who is just trying to do his best but struggles to find his place.
    This book is so lovely and Allegra is a beautiful character discovering herself while also unknowingly helping those around her to grow.

  4. A wonderful and charming coming-of-age story that explores the complexities of families. It is beautifully written by Suzanne Daniel and a joy to read.

    Allegra is a heartwarming character who loves her family dearly and is loved by them, though her grandmothers don’t get along. It is a relatable story with believable relationships and fantastic characters that develop over the course of the story.

    Thanks to Pan Macmillan and Beauty and Lace for providing a copy for review.

  5. Allegra dearly loves the three most important people in her life and she is the most important person in their lives. But the three of them don’t get on. This story is about the effect that this has on Allegra who is caught in the middle. The characters are really well drawn. I really cared about each of them. A brilliant read. I read it in 2 days , Couldn’t put it down

  6. Allegra In Three Parts in the debut novel from Australian author, Suzanne Daniel. Told in the first person of Allegra, eleven and a half years old, a child’s perspective isn’t one that I gravitate towards. Either is a book set in the 70s as this one was but thanks to Beauty and Lace, I read it. To my surprise, I quickly found myself falling in love with a gorgeous child and a new voice in fiction that explored family with all its faults.

    Allegra is an ordinary, sweet child who carries the weight of the world on her slight shoulders. In a time that is remembered fondly for its innocence, Allegra is the poster child of innocence. Allegra knows little about the world around her and what she does learn is learnt through her peers. This brought back fond memories of the book ‘Where Did I come From?’ and Dolly magazine from my own childhood. Allegra is keenly aware though, that the centre of her universe, her family, is not quite right. She lives with her father, Rick and grandmother Matilde (her mother’s mother), while her other grandmother, Joy, lives next door. It is clear from the beginning that the relationship between the three adults is strained yet the reasons are unclear. The only thing they have in common is their love for Allegra.

    I grew to adore Allegra’s family as I got to know them in NSW, warts and all. Grandmother’s, Matilde and Joy, were chalk and cheese. Matilde was the strict grandparent. Tragedy in her past held Matilde back from being affectionate, but she showed her love through her cooking, traditions and rituals. This too made me nostalgic for my own days as a young girl, watching my grandmother make desserts in the kitchen. Joy, in contrast, lives up to her name. She is happy and loving, giving Allegra the affectionate she craves. There was also an unexpected serious side to Joy as she fought for the second wave of women’s rights. This was an insightful read into a fight I knew little about and a reminder of what many of us take for granted today.

    Rick was an interesting father. I felt he played a small role in Allegra’s life in the beginning as his mother and mother-in-law were dominating. There were many times I wanted Rick to take control of the situation and take a stand, for himself and Allegra. It was evident that Allegra did too but the reasons for his inability to step up were unclear. Through an unexpected event, the family really start to talk, especially about the absence of Allegra’s mother. Change is in the air, leading to a beautiful father-daughter relationship and balance within the family unit.

    Allegra In Three Parts is a wonderful return to childhood, perfect for readers that yearn for days gone by.

  7. Suzanne Daniel’s ‘Allegra in Three Parts’ is a beautifully written coming of age novel. It’s a well-crafted story of the protagonist, 11 year old Allegra, carefully exploring the dynamics of her relationship with her father and two grandmothers., Matilde is her Hungarian war surviving maternal grandmother who Allegra lives with at number 23. Matilde is strict with Allegra and has dreams of her granddaughter becoming a doctor whilst Joy, Allegra’s paternal grandmother who resides next door at number 25 is a free spirit who bottles the tears of her emotions in labelled jars. Rick is Allegra’s unemployed surfie dad who lives out the back of Matilde’s house.
    Allegra is torn between the three adults who all live separate lives and like most 11 year old’s, she is trying to keep each of them happy whilst navigating her way from childhood to adolescence. Each of the adult’s love Allegra dearly and don’t realise the damage they are causing from their constrained relationships with each other until well into the novel.
    Allegra narrates the story of her life growing up in the 70’s, living in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and attending a catholic primary school followed by a selective high school. Daniel’s explores many of the issues that were evident during this era such as the women’s liberation movement, domestic violence and the need for women’s refuges.
    This is the heartfelt story of an unconventional family. The dysfunctional relationships stem from the tragic loss of Allegra’s mother who she desperately wishes she could remember.
    It’s a great book that I highly recommend. I particularly liked the fact it’s based in Sydney and it brought back childhood memories for me with the many references to the 70’s.

  8. Thank you, Beauty and Lace Book Club and Pan Macmillan Australia, for the opportunity to review Allegra in Three Parts, the debut novel by Suzanne Daniel.

    The story unfolds in the suburbs of Sydney, during the 1970’s, about the life of an 11-year-old girl Allegra. Allegra to Matilda, her Polish grandmother, Ally to Joy, her hippy grandma and Al Pal to Rick, her father. This sets the three parts to Allegra. The reader quickly realises that the relationship between the three main adults in Allegra’s life is dysfunctional and Allegra is trying to be the right fit for each of them. The dysfunction was due to the death of Allegra’s mother and each of the adults are holding on to their grief and anger, which ultimately comes to a head with a very serious twist of events.
    I enjoyed this book and love how Susanne Daniel develops her characters, and the relationships between them. I would highly recommend this book.

  9. Loved loved this novel, I agree with others it would make a wonderful movie.

    it Explores the love that her 2 grandmothers have for her but in different ways. I liked how her dad stepped up & took on the parenting role rather than letting the grandmother decide. Allegra & her dad had the opportunity to get to know each other & bond.

  10. This was an absolute delight to read. It was an emotional journey at times, that seemed to meander along, not saying a lot, but saying so much at the same time.

    I adored 11 year old Allegra, I loved the way she thought, she was a delight to get to know. I struggled along with her in the situation her grandmother’s had put her in, along with her father Rick. I could completely feel her having to split herself 3 ways to keep everyone happy.

    I really liked Rick, I felt sad for him, that somehow he’d been pushed out of Allegra’s upbringing, like he was only there on the periphery, now and again being allowed to be her father. I was pleased when things started to turn around for him and he took some control.

    Allegra’s grandmother’s, Joy and Matilde, well they were two completely different people, their characters having great impact on Allegra and how she was forming as a person. I never really took to Matilde, though I did gain understanding and respect for her along the way.

    There were some big secrets being kept from Allegra and some huge hurts that needed to be mended if life was going to allow Allegra to grow into her own person.

    Allegra’s friend, her only true friend was inspirational and made such a difference to Allegra and the way she thought, she bought so much knowledge and insight, that Allegra may not have discovered without her. I loved that Allegra didn’t notice or care about any differences she may have had with her friend.

    Over the course of the story, their are many changes that happen to Allegra and her family, all of them for the better. 

    I definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a heartfelt read. 

  11. Allegra in Three Parts it was a good book to read, about a girl who had two grandmothers who had different ideas about looking after Allegra.
    Allegra had a father who like to surf and worked very hard to keep the peace between the two grandmothers, where the past will catch up with them all from hurts and misunderstandings.
    A good book for young people growing up.

  12. Thank you to Pan Macmillan and Beauty and Lace for allowing me to read and review this wonderful book.
    I found it very easy to read and hard to put down.
    Allegra the main character who is 11 was a very likeable protagonist. She lives basically with her two grandmothers and her father who couldn’t look after her.
    I was so intrigued and kept turning the pages to find out how and why her mother died.
    Her grandparents are both very different which made for some interesting reading.
    Being based in the 70’s which is before I was born is why I found so many different parts intriguing.
    I will leave it there because I don’t want to give the whole plot away but please do pick up this book if you have a chance to. It’s definitely well worth the read.

  13. This is the 70’s a time for Allegra to do some growing and learning more about the people around her.
    Her family.
    There’s Grandma Joy full of colour and brightness and collecting emotions.
    Living right next door is Grandma Matilda who works all hours and lives by rules and duty.
    Rick Allegra’s dad who lives in a flat out the back.
    The people don’t get along with each other. There’s a heartache dividing them all.

    This is family, this is broken and poor Allegra is the go between for them all.
    This is the story of a broken family holding it together for Allegra.

    We learn about each person and their role in Allegra’s life as she goes back and forth to spend time with each person.
    As the story progresses you come to understand each person and see what makes them who they are.

    We discover the heartbreak that has brought them all to this point in their lives we ride along with Allegra as she tries to heal it.

    Through all of this drama Allegra finds Patricia a friend she can rely on.

    There are many amazing little stories in this one big story.
    This is a story about love, family, friendship, acceptance, strength and healing.

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