Anna MacDonald reviews 'Half Wild' by Pip Smith

Half Wild

by Pip Smith

Allen & Unwin, $29.99 pb, 390 pp, 97812760294649

In this inventive début novel, Pip Smith recounts the multiple lives of Eugenia Falleni, the ‘man-woman’ who in 1920, as Harry Crawford, was convicted of murdering his first wife, Annie Birkett. Smith employs various types of text–sketches, newspaper articles, witness statements – alongside third-person accounts – to embroider an archive rich in narrative possibilities. The story moves from Wellington, New Zealand, in 1885 to Sydney in the first half of the twentieth century. Each of Falleni’s multiple selves (Nina, Tally Ho, Harry Crawford, Jack, Gene, and Jean Ford) tells his or her own first-person story. In this way, the structure of the novel conveys Falleni’s perpetually shifting identity.

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Published in December 2017, no. 397
Anna MacDonald

Anna MacDonald

Anna MacDonald writes about spatial poetics and the topographical imagination. She has published numerous essays on W.G. Sebald, Gaston Bachelard, and contemporary artists including Susan Norrie, Cindy Sherman, and Jenny Holzer. Her short stories have appeared in international anthologies and she is currently writing a novel. Anna is a Research Associate at Monash University and bookseller at Melbourne's Paperback Bookshop.

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