I hated my freckles as a kid. I used to joke about joining them together, like a dot-to-dot drawing. Unfortunately I didn’t have a cute smattering across my nose, rather they were clumped together in splotches. Of course in retrospect I realise I was far more conscious of them than anyone else around me.
The lead character of Cecilia Ahern’s latest novel is given the nickname Freckles for obvious reasons. Allegra doesn’t mind though. She loves her freckles and as a teenager drew links from one to another, mapping constellations.
by Cecelia Ahern
Published by HarperCollins UK
Source: Harper Collins
Genres: General Fiction
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
When a stranger utters these words to Allegra Bird, nicknamed Freckles, it turns her highly ordered life upside down. In her current life as a parking warden, she has left her eccentric father and unconventional childhood behind for a bold new life in the city.
But a single encounter leads her to ask the question she’s been avoiding for so long: who are the people who made her the way she is? And who are the five people who can shape and determine her future? Just as she once joined the freckles on her skin to mirror the constellations in the night sky, she must once again look for connections.
In her mid 20s Allegra’s working as a parking warden on the outskirts of Dublin. She tells us it was her dream to become a police officer but her application wasn’t successful. She’s… quirky and perhaps if diagnosed would be on the autism spectrum (or similar). She’s details-focussed, a stickler for the rules and somewhat pedantic about her routines.
She’s certainly irascible but Ahern’s given her layer upon layer. Despite her rigidity for example, she’s unpredictable and full of surprises.
The book is very much centred around a turning point in Allegra’s life. It actually is the offhand comment (mentioned in the blurb) by a young man angry at having received a parking ticket. Tristan rips up the ticket as he lashes out at Allegra suggesting that the five people she surrounds herself with would all be losers.
Whether what happens would have happened anyway we don’t know, but Allegra is confronted by the idea that she really doesn’t have ‘five people’ so decides to find inspirational people to connect with (and rub off on her obvs).
As one can imagine, it doesn’t necessarily go as planned and letters to the likes of Amal Clooney and an Irish Olympian disappear into the ether.
At the same time she’s grappling with her eccentric landlords, unusual part-time job and keeps running into Tristan who’s trying to atone for his initial behaviour.
I loved Allegra’s voice. Ahern delivers her narrative in a very conversational way reflecting her personality. There’s a very ‘matter of fact’ tone to her writing that makes this very accessible and engaging.
… maybe it’s because of my mam’s genes. She was a dancer, apparently. Or wanted to be one. That’s how she met Pops, she was doing performing arts, he was a music professor. Maybe she got what she wanted for a while at least between wanting to be and not being. I hope for her she was. You wouldn’t want to give up something for everything and end up with nothing. Quite unfair on the something. p 19
I very much enjoyed this book. There’s a sense of whimsy or lightness in one sense, but it tackles some complex issues relating to relationships, friendships and aloneness. We’re reminded that our impressions of people may not always be correct, that people’s personalities come in shades of grey and they can often surprise us.
Freckles by Cecilia Ahern was published in Australia by Harper Collins and is now available.
I’m actually leaving comments open for this – which I don’t usually do… as I pondered if I actually have ‘five’ people at the moment. In the book Allegra ultimately realises she does, and they’re not who she expects.
Do you agree with the suggestion that who you spend the most time with shapes who you are? I realise the five people might change over time but wonder if you can purposely seek out people to be in ‘your five’ or if it happens more organically.