Review: Allegra in Three Parts – Suzanne Daniel

Allegra in Three Parts

Suzanne Daniel

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781760781712

RRP$29.99

 

Description:

From Suzanne Daniel comes an outstanding debut novel, capturing 1970s Australia with warmth, humour and a distinctive voice. 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. Suzanne Daniel is a journalist and communications consultant who has also worked for ABC TV, the Sydney Morning Herald, the United Nations, BBC (London) and in crisis management and social services. For the past twenty years she has served on community, philanthropic and public company boards. Suzanne lives in Sydney with her husband and family. Allegra in Three Parts is her first novel.

 

My View:

I am sitting here in my flares, a recent “op shop” purchase, I love flares, I am searching for the musical references mentioned in this novel; I love the music of the seventies.

At the time (the 70’s) I was too young to appreciate that I was growing up female in the middle of the Women’s movement, the liberation. The movement was happening around me and I largely benefited from the struggles of my peers. Helen Reddy’s powerhouse song “I am Woman” was the anthem we all sang. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rptW7zOPX2E

But I digress. I am meant to be reviewing Allegra in Three Parts – and in a     roundabout way I am.

Allegra in Three Parts has many story arcs – the Women’s Liberation movement being one of them; the setting up of women’s safe houses/refuges from family violence, the challenge of attaining equal pay and conditions, education for women, the harnessing of trade unions to improve work conditions…so much more is introduced to us by the characters of grandmothers Joy and Mathilde. Joy is at the forefront of the movement, with her Liberty Club. Mathilde clearly feels that education and a good job are the key to a woman’s success and independence and she is determined that Allegra will have those opportunities. They both want the best life possible for Allegra.

 

Suzanne Daniel also creates a space here to discuss the role of fathers in family and in particular as role models for their daughters when we are introduced to Rick – Allegra’s father. As the narrative progresses his influence on the family and Allegra increases – in a positive way.

 

The characters of Rick and the grandmothers are great devices to open up discussion surrounding grief, loss and resilience.

 

There are so many more social issues subtly probed in this novel – so gently are they introduced that you hardly are aware of the lessons being shared; on racism, multiculturalism, on being different, of bullying, of class and privilege…

 

More than issues this is a book about growth and healing, forgiveness, families and love and the importance of being loved.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omrGB4HgjEg

 

“There’s no formula for happiness that’s guaranteed to work

It all depends on how you treat your friends and how much you’ve been hurt

But it’s a start, when you open up your heart

And try not to hide, what you’re feeling inside

Just open up your heart.”  (p249, ‘Open Up Your Heart’ G W Thomas)

 

I loved this book!

 

 

 

Sneak Peak – The Book of Tree Spells and The Book of Faerie Spells – Cheralyn Darcey

The Book of Tree Spells

The Book of Faerie Spells 

Cheralyn Darcey

Rockpool Publishing

Fexibound PB RRP $19.99 each

 

What a delight these two books are to hold in your hand. I love the flexibound covers – and the images and magik between the pages are inspiring.

Welcome:

 

Extracts from The Book of Tree Spells and The Book of Faerie Spells by Cheralyn Darcey (Rockpool, June 2019) Available flexibound paperback at $19.99 each

Review: My Book (Not Yours): Lento and Fox – Ben Sanders

My Book (Not Yours): Lento & Fox

Ben Sanders

Lothian Children’s Books

Hachette Children’s Books

RRP$24.99

 

Description:

When a lovable sloth’s book is hijacked by a fox with STYLE and PIZZAZZ, sloth has to learn how to find his voice and take back control.

 

Lento the sloth is SO excited you are reading HIS book. He has a BIG story to tell you. First, though, he needs a little nap. But if you snooze, you lose. Enter Fox, stage right, to steal the show.

 

The first book in a ridiculously fun series about a bewildered sloth who just wants to express himself and a sly old fox who keeps stealing the limelight.

 

 

My View:

With vibrant, simply executed illustrations this cheeky little book is bound to please the toddler in your life. The images are the focal point of this book – eye-catching and hilarious; the illustrations almost speak for themselves, look at those smirks, grins, grimaces…

 

This is a quick read that will captivate the early reader in your life.

 

Review: The Suicide Bride – Tanya Bretherton

The Suicide Bride

Tanya Bretherton

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733640988

 

Description:

Whenever society produces a depraved criminal, we wonder: is it nature or is it nurture?

 

When the charlatan Alicks Sly murdered his wife, Ellie, and killed himself with a cut-throat razor in a house in Sydney’s Newtown in early 1904, he set off a chain of events that could answer that question. He also left behind mysteries that might never be solved. Sociologist Dr Tanya Bretherton traces the brutal story of Ellie, one of many suicide brides in turn-of-the-century Sydney; of her husband, Alicks, and his family; and their three orphaned sons, adrift in the world.

 

From the author of the acclaimed THE SUITCASE BABY – shortlisted for the 2018 Ned Kelly Award, Danger Prize and Waverley Library ‘Nib’ Award – comes another riveting true-crime case from Australia’s dark past. THE SUICIDE BRIDE is a masterful exploration of criminality, insanity, violence and bloody family ties in bleak, post-Victorian Sydney.

 

My View:

It was fascinating to read of such macabre events in an area of Sydney that I have visited. The book creates a visual landscape that is accessible and real. In this deeply researched book we are time travellers transported to Sydney, Newtown early 1900’s. And what a hard life it is – especially for women and children. Domestic violence is obvious but accepted as the norm – change is taking a long, long time.  Violence – nature versus nurture, the question is posed and left for the reader to ponder.

 

Tanya Bretherton explores an intriguing case of one of these horrendous act of violence – of a particular “Suicide Bride”, a term common for the crime of committing murder of spouse by the husband who then commits suicide.  In this case we view the bodies (wife and husband) in situ, we check pockets for notes, count coins, measure the wounds and try and avoid the deluge of blood. How could the wife not show any signs of defence wounds?  Read on carefully and wonder at the possible explanation given (no spoilers) I would like to have seen this solution discussed in more depth but how this could be explored so long after the event I cannot conceive.

 

A well-researched event that provides a great insight into Sydney in the 1900’s and possibly provides a great premise for a work of crime fiction for writers.

What’s on Tonight’s Menu? Super Simple Chicken Curry: A Pinch of Nom – Kate Allinson & Kay Featherstone

Pinch of Nom by Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone is published by Bluebird, RRP $39.99 and is available in all good bookstores.

Super Simple Chicken Curry

Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 30 mins | 181 KCAL per serving

Occasionally, the craving for a good Indian dish is overwhelming. We would all love to have the opportunity to create curry pastes and spice mixes from scratch. At times though, we just need a quick, easy, got- curry recipe that can be created in minutes. This is one such recipe. Wonderfully tasty, but so quick to put together, it’ll become a regular evening meal in no time.” p58

—–| Everyday Light |—–

 

F GF

Serves 4

 

Low-calorie cooking spray

1 large onion, sliced

450g chicken breast (skin and visible fat removed), diced

3 garlic cloves, crushed

400ml water

3 tbsp curry powder

1 tbsp ground turmeric

1 tbsp tomato puree

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

TO SERVE (OPTIONAL)

Samosas (see earlier post)

Cooked rice

 

Spray a large frying pan with low-calorie cooking spray and place over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes until softened slightly, then add the diced chicken to the pan and cook for 5 minutes until browned.

Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 1 minutes, then add all the other ingredients. The water should just about cover the chicken – you may need a little more or less depending on the size of your pan.

Leave to simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Turn the heat up and boil the curry for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan – this will reduce and thicken the sauce slightly.

Serves the curry with your choice of accompaniment.

 

* Tip – this curry recipe works well with lean diced lamb (all visible fat removed), too.