A Letter to Barbara …

I finished reading ‘The Allegra Series‘ a few days ago and haven’t been able to pick up another book until I wrote you about how it affected me. I loved it! There is such precision and rich discipline inherent in your lush creativity, firmly rooted in a profound respect for your reader. You lead me into one captivating scene after another, graciously stepping aside to let me make of it what I would.

8047309 (304x475)That your fascinating characters are utterly believable is as much a factor of your constraint in the reveal, the easing into their psyches and degrees of self-awareness as it is your unrestrained honesty. You expose their traits a layer at a time, luring me to an emergent understanding of the ‘whole’ character, deftly cracking open the window onto acceptance of their eccentricities … and their nasty bits.

Complex, brittle characters, you took me inside to look out, to see how each viewed their particular world, whether skewed, hopeful or dark, where I discovered a silken thread of madness in each.

Mona, through her research, plaits a mystifying backdrop for this extraordinary love story. I don’t like Mona, so completely self-absorbed and dangerously opportunistic. Her perception of the history between her and Brad is shocking, whether true or a figurative symbol, claiming as theirs the story of Philomela? If real, then Brad is a far more sinister character than he seems. If, figurative, then Mona is calculatingly evil. How skilfully you hook the explanation for their fractious connection, at least as Mona identifies it, into one sentence, near the end of the book. My jaw dropped.

Allegra is captivating. I love her flaws, her desire to push on despite, or perhaps because of, a devastating diagnosis. I am inspired by her passion, drive and sexual volatility even in the progression of her disability. I admire her stubborn refusal to give up on the notion she will recover, that the strength of her will is sufficient to drive the debilitating disease from her body, denial paramount in the desperate risks taken with her physical safety.

Allegra believes love has found her again in Brad, an enigma to the very end. His attraction to Allegra is suspicious from the beginning, appearing to serve a need he himself can’t figure out, something ugly left behind when Mona walked out on him and their child. I want to believe he doesn’t initially understand his own intentions, though they appear to be deeply self-serving once he gains a modicum of insight into the ‘why’. The proof rests in the fact he hides the paintings of Allegra portraying the downward spiral of her progressive illness. Brad is at once overly protective and negligently dismissive, always at Allegra to make preparations for the life of an invalid, even while she hums with the vibrancy of the artist, so alive and passionate.

I will always wonder whether Allegra finds Angeline.

Was this really your debut novel, Barabara?