I started to read this novel simply to write a review; at Chapter 2, I was reading for enjoyment; at Chapter 3, I was hooked.
Set in rural outback Australia at the end of the 1920s this riveting story tells the tale of a daughter of the privileged squattocracy – the Australian version of aristocracy. Author, Nicole Alexander, based An Uncommon Woman on a newspaper article about a woman who purchased a pastoral property in western Queensland in 1930 – something so shocking in its time it made headlines as far away as Tasmania.
Edwina Baker, a girl verging on womanhood, is in a frustrating and confusing place. Confined in an all male environment, she has little or no rights nor say in either her own life or the running of the home and property she loves. She is super bright and can see any number of ways the station can be improved, but despite many attempts to convince her father, Hamilton, or her younger brother, Aiden all of Edwina’s efforts are rejected with the common reply being “you are only a woman”.
Refused permission to go to the circus visiting town because it is an inappropriate place for a young lady, Edwina decides to make the 5 hour horseback journey herself, dressed in male clothes! At the circus, she meets two men who will change the course of her life forever. Mason Ridgeway, the adjoining landowner and Will the knockabout labourer who like Edwina has great ideas for the future and little hope of making them come true.
The night ends in total disaster so much so that there is no longer any chance of a good marriage for Edwina. It seems she is doomed to a life tied to her father and brother. But a series of events see her assume control of Hamilton’s complex finances and make decisions which will see her life change dramatically. She even buys another property in Roma, Queensland.
Hamilton Baker’s wrath on learning of the purchase leaves Edwina to make a huge choice. Will her decision lead Edwina to freedom?
Author Nicole Alexander is a fourth generation grazier who manages her family’s property. This is reflected strongly in An Uncommon Woman. Her descriptions of life on a property are authentic and based in her deep love for the land.
This story has made me refocus on why I was an active part of the Women’s movement of the 70s, the problems faced by the central character are very similar to ones being faced by young women today.
It is written with such warmth and a deep understanding of Edwina and the story line flows effortlessly between characters, there really are no bad guys, just ordinary people trying to make sense of their lives.
A bit like life today really.