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!

 

 

 

Review: Greenlight- Benjamin Stevenson

Greenlight

Greenlight

Benjamin Stevenson

Penguin Books Australia

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143789871

 

Description:

Four years ago Eliza Dacey was brutally murdered.

Within hours, her killer was caught.

Wasn’t he?

 

So reads the opening titles of Jack Quick’s new true-crime documentary.

 

A skilled producer, Jack knows that the bigger the conspiracy, the higher the ratings. Curtis Wade, convicted of Eliza’s murder on circumstantial evidence and victim of a biased police force, is the perfect subject. Millions of viewers agree.

 

Just before the finale, Jack uncovers a minor detail that may prove Curtis guilty after all. Convinced it will ruin his show, Jack disposes of the evidence and delivers the finale unedited: proposing that Curtis is innocent.

 

But when Curtis is released, and a new victim is found bearing horrifying similarities to the original murder, Jack realises that he may have helped a guilty man out of jail. And, as the only one who knows the real evidence of the case, he is the only one who can send him back …

 

 

My View:

About Benjamin Stevenson (https://www.penguin.com.au/authors/benjamin-stevenson):

 

Benjamin Stevenson is an award-winning stand-up comedian and author. He has sold out shows from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has appeared on ABCTV, Channel 10, and The Comedy Channel. Off-stage, Benjamin has worked for publishing houses and literary agencies in Australia and the USA. He currently works with some of Australia’s best-loved authors at Curtis Brown Australia. Greenlight is his first novel.

 

I have just finished reading Greenlight and wanted to know a little bit about the author as I was very impressed with this debut.  What a surprise – a comedian? There is no comedy in Greenlight.  Works in the publishing industry, I was sure I was going to find but didn’t – works in the film industry, specifically on documentaries, his protagonist Jack has an authentic documentary maker voice.  I loved this aspect of the book.

 

Back to the book – this is a brutal, dark and intriguing crime fiction narrative.

 

I like how Stevenson has turned the stereotype regarding eating disorders on its head; a sad yet refreshing and honest approach here.

 

Consequences, guilt, redemption and acceptance are themes that are sited in small town prejudices. Tension, tension, tension. And the ending – no spoilers here. Think you have it worked out? Think again.

 

A great read.

 

Guest Review: The Lucky Galah – Tracy Sorensen

The Lucky Galah

The Lucky Galah

Tracy Sorensen

Pan Macmillan AU

ISBN: 9781760552657

Description:

It’s 1969 and a remote coastal town in Western Australia is poised to play a pivotal part in the moon landing. Perched on the red dunes of its outskirts looms the great Dish: a relay for messages between Apollo 11 and Houston, Texas. Crouched around a single grainy set, radar technician Evan Johnson and his colleagues stare at the screen, transfixed, as Armstrong takes that first small step.

I was in my cage of course, unheard, underestimated, biscuit crumbs on my beak. But fate is a curious thing. For just as Evan Johnson’s story is about to end (and perhaps with a giant leap), my story prepares to take flight…

The Lucky Galah is a novel about fate. About Australia. About what it means to be human. It just happens to be narrated by a galah called Lucky.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Evan and Linda Johnson and their young daughter Jo drove from Melbourne to the small town of Port Badminton in Western Australia for Evan to take up the position of radar technician, communicating between Apollo 11 and Houston, Texas. It was the 1960s and the Moon landing was imminent – the installation of the gigantic Dish caused great discussion among the residents…

The Johnson’s moved into a home two down from the Kelly family. The children would become great friends – Marjorie and Linda became unlikely friends. Enter “Cocky” when Kevin Kelly acquired the galah as a pet for his children. Caged and untended, Lucky began her narration of the life and perks of her humans and own flock high above. And Lucky discovered her communication with the Dish – something all galahs were able to do apparently.

As life moved inexorably toward events already written, Lucky continued to keep the readers up to date with the sometime hilarious, always insightful comments whilst drinking tea and eating biscuits with Lizzie 😊

What a quirky, original and fascinating novel by debut writer Tracy Sorensen! The Lucky Galah captivated me from the start to the finish with its complete difference. I loved Lucky as we discovered her (yes she’s a female!) life story from tiny chick to how she became part of Lizzie’s life. Highly recommended – 4 stars.

With thanks to Pan Macmillan AU for my ARC to read and review.

Post Script: The Summer That Melted Everything – Tiffany McDaniel

the summer that melted everything Scribe

The Summer That Melted Everything

Tiffany McDaniel

Scribe Publications  (Paperback)

9781925321302

Description:

Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.

 

Sal seems to appear out of nowhere – a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, brings him home where he’s welcomed into the Bliss family, assuming he’s a runaway from a nearby farm town.

 

When word spreads that the devil has come to Breathed, not everyone is happy to welcome this self-proclaimed fallen angel. Murmurs follow him and tensions rise, along with the temperatures as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him. As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, some in the town start to believe that Sal is exactly who he claims to be. While the Bliss family wrestles with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.

 

 

My View:

Sublime, poignant, lyrical, touching…

 

This book will quickly draw you in and mesmerise you with its beautiful prose. It will enchant, it will enthral, it will make you shake your head in disbelief and then you will reflect a little and sadly  have to agree…this could happen, this or something like it has already  happened…. somewhere, to someone…be careful what you say, words once spoken cannot be unheard.

 

This is a book that will have a profound effect on the reader (aside from the awe you will feel for the delicious prose). There are words, there are sentences, there are paragraphs and pages you will just want to highlight or underline and shout YES!!!  When you read this book there are two particular passages that stand out in my mind, analogies with leaves and another with roses, let me know if these spark brilliant illuminations in your mind, they did for me; beautiful descriptions, searing moments of brutal honesty and perfect understanding.

 

The writing here is remarkable…I predict…awards, awards and more awards for this incredibly wonderful and talented author. And did I mention that this is Tiffany McDaniel’s debut work? Seriously amazing!!!

 

 

Post Script: Bone By Bone – Sanjida Kay

Bone By Bone

Bone by Bone

Sanjida Kay

Allen & Unwin Australia

Corvus

Atlantic Books Ltd

ISBN: 978-1-7825396888

RRP A$29.99

 

Description:

How far would you go to protect your child? When her daughter is bullied, Laura makes a terrible mistake…

 

Laura loves her daughter more than anything in the world.

 

But nine-year-old daughter Autumn is being bullied. Laura feels helpless.

 

When Autumn fails to return home from school one day, Laura goes looking for her. She finds a crowd of older children taunting her little girl.

 

In the heat of the moment, Laura makes a terrible choice. A choice that will have devastating consequences for her and her daughter…

 

 

My View:

There are moments in this book that evoke so much tension, so much apprehension for the possibility of evilness to follow that I could hardly breathe!  I had to take a break from this book.

 

First there is a well baited hook – the opening sentence begins: It wasn’t until the train went past that she saw the small body lying in the long grass by the side of the wood.  From the very first sentence we are expecting the worst possible scenario.  Then the element of bullying is added which plays a substantial role in the overall plot and forces the blood pressure up again and adds to the expectation of bad things to come.  Further the reader is privileged to knowledge/behaviours/acts/suspicions (no spoilers here) that the protagonist doesn’t see at the time and the result – the tension is ratcheted up another notch.

 

Some fantastic writing to be found here.

 

A brilliant comment of bullying in society and a lesson here about bullying on social media and how violence often begets violence.

 

What would you do to protect your child?

 

 

 

 

 

Post Script: The Unquiet Dead – Ausma Zehanat Khan

Draped in a cloak called crime fiction this narrative speaks of truths we all need to hear.

The Unquiet Dead

The Unquiet Dead

Ausma Zehanat Khan

St. Martin’s Press

Minotaur Books

ISBN: 9781250055118

 

Description:

Despite their many differences, Detective Rachel Getty trusts her boss, Esa Khattak, implicitly. But she’s still uneasy at Khattak’s tight-lipped secrecy when he asks her to look into Christopher Drayton’s death. Drayton’s apparently accidental fall from a cliff doesn’t seem to warrant a police investigation, particularly not from Rachel and Khattak’s team, which handles minority-sensitive cases. But when she learns that Drayton may have been living under an assumed name, Rachel begins to understand why Khattak is tip-toeing around this case. It soon comes to light that Drayton may have been a war criminal with ties to the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.

 

If that’s true, any number of people might have had reason to help Drayton to his death, and a murder investigation could have far-reaching ripples throughout the community. But as Rachel and Khattak dig deeper into the life and death of Christopher Drayton, every question seems to lead only to more questions, with no easy answers. Had the specters of Srebrenica returned to haunt Drayton at the end, or had he been keeping secrets of an entirely different nature? Or, after all, did a man just fall to his death from the Bluffs?

 

In her spellbinding debut, Ausma Zehanat Khan has written a complex and provocative story of loss, redemption, and the cost of justice that will linger with readers long after turning the final page.

 

 

My View:

WOW! This book is….is so many things, it has blown me away! I don’t know where to begin or how to write a review to do this book justice. And did I mention this is the author’s debut novel? This author is incredibly gifted and I predict this book winning many awards.

 

This book:

  • Is a great work of crime fiction.
  • Speaks in a voice that is intelligent, articulate and captivating.
  • Is at times beautifully descriptive.
  • Is at times brutally honest, tough, grim, disturbing and so so sad.
  • Has wonderful empathetic characters that you want to know more about.
  • The settings both in Canada and Srebrenica are powerful and realistic.
  • The mysteries are captivating.
  • The evilness lingers leaving a bitter taste in your mouth. 

 

 

This is a complex book about family, beliefs, relationships, loss, justice, trust, crimes and the ugliness in our world. This book begs you to read it and defies you to not be moved, this book pricks at your conscience and perhaps persuades you to choose a path that is more tolerant and accepting or maybe it gives you a nudge to become a more political individual; after you have read this book you will not be the person you were when you woke this morning. This book will enlighten and move you. Read it.

 

PS

This book is the first I have read for the Eclectic Reader Challenge 2015