AusRom Recommends: Nicole Alexander’s ‘An Uncommon Woman’
Describe An Uncommon Woman in three words:
Adventure. Defiance. Love.
An Uncommon Woman was inspired by a newspaper article from 1930 and is a curious story in that it focuses on the changes the world underwent at the time (hemlines were on the rise, movies were released with sound, are cars were becoming more common)whilst being juxtaposed against the constraints that women still faced at the time. Notably, the endearing Edwina Baker, who seeing these changes, wanted to become more than just a daughter/sister/wife and set out to create her own path in the world. What sparked this concept for you and why did you feel it important to bring life to this particular story?
An Uncommon Woman began with an idea based on an article in a 1933 newspaper. The headline in the Tasmanian Examiner read, Station Sold To Woman, and it briefly reported that a married woman had purchased a Queensland pastoral property. The fact that the buying of land by a woman warranted an article in an island state far removed from the dusty interior of Queensland signified the uniqueness of the event. Much of the world had just staggered through the great stock market crash of 1929 and was in the grip of recession. The shadow of The Great War still loomed and the bush was being invaded by men seeking work, many of them returned soldiers. And yet here was a woman laying claim to a remote rural property. At a time when men such as the great pastoralist, Sir Sidney Kidman were at the forefront of land ownership, the article intrigued me.
In 1902, Australia gave women both the right to vote in federal elections and also the right to be elected to parliament on a national basis. And yet the sweeping tides of feminism following the first and second world wars did little to change the status of many women, particularly those in rural areas. During this period, many women on rural properties were the laborers’ on small family holdings. Women were viewed as dependents, with domestic service, or marriage their only options. I wanted my lead character, Edwina to break free of the restrictions of her gender and the society in which she lived. I wanted her to lay claim to her own life and to literally forge a place for herself beyond the dictates of men, regardless of whether they were father, brother or lover. But a girl must have her distractions. And as Edwina’s ambition soars, she is faced with the challenges of love. First in the form of labourer, Will, who offers her escape from the drudgery of her farm life and a controlling father, and secondly the pastoralist, Mason. The type of man Edwina’s father would love to marry her off too.
What aspect of Edwina’s personality will most endear her to readers?
Her feisty, determined character. During the novel we see Edwina’s growth from that of a dutiful daughter with a controlling father, to a woman firmly set on achieving her goals. Although she is attracted to men and they to her, Edwina is cautious about love. We see her contemplating what marriage could mean in 1929 and weighing up her need for independence.
In 2017 there is still much discussion about women’s rights and equality, having just been deep in research mode, what observations (if any) do you draw when comparing the current times to those in An Uncommon Woman? Do you see any correlations/advances/disadvantages etc?
I think the themes and issues in An Uncommon Woman are universal ones. The fight to be treated as an individual, to have the right to choose how you wish to live your life and to be respected for those choices. These are issues that go beyond women’s rights to the core of society today.
What was your biggest challenge in writing An Uncommon Woman?
Great changes were occurring across the globe in the 1920s and 1930s. Automobiles were no longer the privilege of the few, hemlines were rising and women were embracing the many opportunities that the modern age offered. However the bush remained the domain of men, with the great pastoralists of the time carving up much of the inland. By placing Edwina centre stage, I had to ensure she retained her femininity while fighting for the right to a life that was not available to many of her contemporaries.
Was there anything in particular that shocked or intrigued you whilst researching this novel?
In An Uncommon Woman the character Will is the son of a Great War veteran. Will’s father is the recipient of a soldier settler block. The soldier settler story of Australia intrigued me. In order to buy or lease such a block returning veterans had to remain in residence on that land for 5 years. Apart from providing homes and work for returning soldier’s and their families, it was seen as a reward of sorts at a time when employment opportunities were becoming scarce. But the government had a bigger agenda. They also hoped for a population expansion, an increase in commodity production and infrastructure. However some of these new farmers, unable to cope with our severe climate changes and devoid of the capital to increase stock or quality of life, simply walked off the land back to the large towns and cities from whence they had come. Many more spent years tramping around the outback looking for work.
What’s next for you?
Having written eight novels in eight years, I’m having a short break at the moment.
An Uncommon Woman
Set in rural Queensland in 1929, An Uncommon Woman is the captivating story of a very modern woman who refuses to be held down by the conventions of the past . . .
Inspired by a real newspaper story from 1933, An Uncommon Woman is an epic tale of duty, ambition, prejudice and love, from the pen of bestselling author Nicole Alexander.
A new world is waiting for her . . .
It’s 1929, and the world is changing. Cars are no longer the privilege of the rich. Hemlines are rising. Movies are talking. And more and more women are entering the workforce.
For Edwina Baker, however, life on her family’s property in Western Queensland offers little opportunity to be anything other than daughter, sister and, perhaps soon, wife.
But Edwina wants more. She wants to see the world, meet new people, achieve things. For while she has more business sense than her younger brother, it will be Aiden who one day inherits the family business.
Then the circus comes to town. Banned from attending by her father, Hamilton, Edwina defiantly rides to the showground dressed as a boy. There she encounters two men who will both inadvertently alter the course of her life: pastoralist Mason with his modern city friends; and Will, a labourer who also dreams of escape.
And when the night ends in near-disaster, this one act of rebellion strikes at the heart of the Baker family. Yet it also offers Edwina the rare chance to prove herself in a man’s world. The question is, how far is she prepared to go, and how much is she prepared to risk?
Find Nicole online:
About the Author:
Nicole Alexander is the author of seven novels: The Bark Cutters, A Changing Land, Absolution Creek, Sunset Ridge, The Great Plains, Wild Lands and River Run (Pub. 2016). An Uncommon Woman will be released July 2017. Non-fiction includes; Divertissements: Love. War. Society. – a collection of poetry. And, Dear Mum, an anthology. Nicole lives in north-west NSW, Australia and when she’s not writing or chatting to book-lovers you can find her on the family property. The Bark Cutters was short-listed for a Australian Book Industry Award. Both Absolution Creek and Sunset Ridge were chosen for the ’50 Books You Can’t Put Down’ Get Reading campaign. The Great Plains was chosen in Better readings Top 100 Books in both 2015 & 2016.
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