I really think that whenever I feel like a bit of a whinge about the way life is these days, I should read a book like EUGENIA. Eugenia Falleni was a woman born into a large Italian Family, who grew up in New Zealand, and spent most of her all too short life in Australia, living most of it as a man.
Mark Tedeschi QC looks at what happened to Eugenia in her early life, a rape and subsequent birth of a daughter which complicated her life even more, how she functioned in day-to-day life, her first marriage and the death of her wife for which she was charged with murder, along with a second marriage and life post trial and time in jail.
Whilst the book is written by a lawyer, and looks closely at the rights, wrong and inadequacies of the trial and sentencing that she endured, it's not just about the legal. Tedeschi considers many of the elements that made up Falleni's difficult and tragic life, considering the question of her gender dysmorphia, and how she kept it a secret, particularly, it seems in the case of two marriages to women. Although her first wife, Annie Birkett, had finally discovered the truth, her second wife Lizzie Crawford refused to acknowledge that her husband, was in fact, a woman, even after police and had arrested Falleni, and doctors had examined her and declared the obvious.
It's impossible to read EUGENIA and not have sympathy for a woman who, may or may not have committed murder, although the book's conclusion is that her defence could have argued accidental / manslaughter. It's impossible not to consider how incredibly difficult, confronting and complicated her life must have been with such an obvious case of gender dysmorphia. Despite even the worst of idiocy about such issues in current day society, at the very least you'd hope there would be some support, understanding, and friendship somewhere. Alas for Falleni she was the target of ridicule and disrespect from everywhere. She was subjected to the worst sexual violence, attacked by the press, treated like a freak by the public and let down badly by her defence. Although there was finally kindness in jail, it was a bit of a kick in the teeth to find out that even her death was an absolute, flat out, utter and complete tragedy.
I'd never heard of Eugenia Falleni before I read a short story in a true crime collection a while ago, so I'm really grateful that Tedeschi took the time to delve, consider and write this book. Eugenia Falleni deserves it.