13 May 2014

Review: Eugenia, A True Story of Adversity, Tragedy, Crime and Courage by Mark Tedeschi QC

Eugenia, A True Story of Adversity, Tragedy, Crime and Courage by Mark Tedeschi QC book cover
* Copy courtesy of The Reading Room Advanced Reading Copies & Giveaways Program *

Born a female in New Zealand in 1875, Eugenia Falleni decided to live her life as a man, dressing as a man and going by the name Eugene. In 1898, Eugenia moved to Newcastle and began her life here in Australia as a male.

Living under several different names, Eugenia successfully married twice and lived every aspect of her life as a man, including conducting intimate relationships with women who had no idea of her true sexuality.

In Sydney in 1920, Eugenia's life took a turn for the worse when she was charged with murdering her first wife, Annie Birkett.

Author Mark Tedeschi, AM QC uses his extensive legal experience to take the reader through Eugenia's life, including upbringing, move to Australia, work, love life and the murder trial.

Reading about Eugenia Falleni's life was fascinating but to learn the extent she had to go to in order to keep her sexuality a secret was just heartbreaking.  When her secret was revealed she suffered harsh judgements from the public and the press was terribly cruel, calling her the man-woman.

Records from the day are referred to including: court transcripts, media articles, police reports and public records.

What I liked least about Eugenia were the brief introductory paragraphs at the beginning of significant chapters.  Historical details were provided in these paragraphs to 'set the scene' for the reader and provide an overview of what else was taking place in the world at the time.  This was completely unnecessary and a minor interruption to the flow of Eugenia's story.

What I liked most about Eugenia was the detailed follow up at the end of the book.  Various locations in Sydney had been referred to in the book including residences, places of work and public spaces and at the end Tedeschi provides an update on each of the locations and their status today.  He also provides extensive updates on the major figures in Eugenia's life (of which I was less interested) but this follow up was extremely satisfying and incredibly interesting.

In conclusion, Eugenia, A True Story of Adversity, Tragedy, Crime and Courage by Mark Tedeschi QC is an incredible and engrossing read with plenty of life lessons to learn along the way, and I highly recommend it.

My rating = *****

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