This incredible story, which begins in Wellington 1885, is a fictionalised account of the life of Eugenia Falleni. Her life story is a fascinating account of a determined and brave transgender person, at the beginning of the 20th century, who after being born a female, goes on to construct a completely male life, which includes two marriages.
Eugenia’s story begins with the account of her childhood and of her being brought up by a traditional Italian family. It is a vivid description of what is typically expected of female children, and descibes Eugenia’s loathing of the help she is expected to provide her mother in the household, and her desperate preference for the outside labour that her father undertakes. It is obvious that there is no way that her wishes can be accomodated, and she eventually runs away from home and manages to obtain employment – posing as a man!
Eugenia’s story continues in Sydney with her new identity being Harry Crawford. Harry is a hard worker and eventually marries Annie, who already has a son. Their life together is not easy, and it is not obvious whether Annie knows Harry’s true identity. Annie disappears, and Harry, who is still looking after Annie’s son, eventually marries again.
However, Harry’s past does catch up with him, he is convicted of the murder of Annie and he is forced to resume life as a woman.
This story has been structured in quite an unusal way, and is told from the perspective of a semi-conscious Jean Ford, (Eugenia), who has been hit by a car and is remembering her life. It is a compelling story that is interesting from an historical perspective, looking at a lower middle class life in early 20th century Australia. However, the most astounding aspect of the story for me was to see how determinedly this person, who identified as male, was able to live a life as a male at a time when it must have been close to impossible.