Set in 1929 in Western Queensland, An Uncommon Woman is a novel about a young woman, Edwina Baker, finding her way in a world that is ruled by men. Even though the world is changing, and attitudes are becoming more progressive, Edwina is stuck on the family farm in a life of servitude. She is expected to be a compliant daughter and sister, before one day being married off to a suitable man of her father’s choosing. But Edwina has brains and ambitions, and she wants more than this for her life. She wants to go out into the world; she wants to achieve things. It grates that her brother Aiden will inherit the family farm when she is the one with business sense.
When the circus comes to town, Edwina is banned from going to the showground by her overbearing father. But when she defies him, it sets in chain a serious of events that will change Edwina’s life forever. She meets two young men, Mason and his modern city friends, and Will, a labourer who also dreams of escape like she does. With these new friendships comes innovative ideas and curious complications.
Nicole Alexander is a talented storyteller, and it is easy to invest time in this page-turning book. Edwina is a fabulous character – at times refreshingly naïve, at other times smart and strong – and it is her journey that makes this novel worth reading, as she battles against the rigid norms of the time, wanting to find her own place in it. Her father, Hamilton, at first seems an overbearing, pompous bully of a man, but as the novel progresses, the author skillfully reveals more of his nature, so he ends up as a rounded albeit, still flawed individual.
Feel the heat and hardship of farming life in Western Queensland at a volatile time in history, and enjoy a rollicking read that will soon have you devouring the final page. While the conclusion is satisfying, it does hint there might be another book in the offering with Edwina at centre stage. I certainly hope so as readers deserve to discover what happens in the next installment of her young life. Not least, is whatever becomes of the lion cub that was stolen from the circus at the beginning of the book…