Book club: Allegra in Three Parts by Suzanne Daniels

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Emotionally intelligent, empowering and with a definitive female voice, Allegra in Three Parts is a joy. Suzanne Daniels brings all the glow of the golden 1970s to the page.

She brings you the wild beaches, long afternoon frolics and carefree yearning of a decade defined by its defiance, glam and surging identity politics. We see the world through Allegra, a fiercely intelligent eleven-year old who exists in a turbulent world of grandmothers.

Sandwiched between her grandmother Mathilde, a robust, quietly industrious Holocaust survivor and grandmother Joy, a newly emancipated ‘women’s libber’ with a taste for the theatrical. Both of the women love her enormously but it’s their inability to reconcile that sends Allegra down a spiralling path of questions- she loves her family, why can’t they love each other?

Daniel’s novel takes the hand of the reader down the garden path and through every front door and side gate, allowing them to gaze intensely at this warm world and wonder, just like Allegra, as they are fed morsels of her story at a time- what happened to Allegra’s mother and why is her dad a benevolent shadow figure?

It’s a complicated world and jarringly, the vernacular can reflect this, snapping the reader out of the grip of the narrative, especially when an eleven-year-old who can’t spell suddenly slides into philosophical musings. However, to Daniel’s credit, the lingo is deep, loving and affectionate, just like the endless love a child has for her grandparents and the world at that age.  In this way, she has managed to straddle the delicate balance of using a child narrator to tell an adult story. And it is this technique that solidifies the relationship between the reader and the story.

Most enjoyably, Daniel’s has positioned Allegra in a trifecta of strong female role models. Her two grandmothers and the nun who teaches her at school frame her world and it’s delightfully relatable to see her try to imitate each in turn as she grows, especially as she encounters trauma and grief. The effect this has on any reader, who was once young, is endearing and solidifies the narrative, as a genuine ode to the unique time in life when one exists on the precipice of childhood and adulthood.

Allegra in Three Parts is a wonderful guide to growing up and a gentle reminder to treasure the ones we have, even if their love sandwiches you in.