Eugenia: A Man

Xoum Publishing

In the spring of 1917 an apprentice from the Cumberland Paper Mills, just outside Sydney, was walking along a bush track beside the Lane Cove River when he discovered the partially burnt body of an unidentified woman. The arrest three years later of a 45-year-old Italian, Eugenia Falleni, for murder, led to an investigation that fascinated Australia.

Known in the newspapers as the ‘Man-Woman Case’, the trial revealed that from the time she had left New Zealand and gone to sea as a cabin boy, Eugenia Falleni had lived at least twenty years of her life in the guise of a man.

Suzanne Falkiner has written a remarkable story that follows the course of her own efforts to accurately reconstruct Eugenia’s extraordinary life, and provides an intriguing account of her subsequent trial.

Exploring questions never able to be answered at the time, the author also examines the plight of working-class migrant women, and reveals some of the secrets of a transgendered existence in an era when leading such a life was dangerous and unacceptable.

First published in 1988, this new edition of Eugenia: A Man updates the story to include new information that has come to light since then.

Praise for Eugenia: A Man by Suzanne Falkiner

‘Thoughtful, absorbing.’ —The Sydney Morning Herald

‘Lucidly written by a trenchant and conscientious writer, Eugenia: A Man is undoubtedly the fullest and fairest account of the curious and tragic life of a transsexual in Sydney at the turn of the century.’ —Mark Try, Campaign

‘Suzanne Falkiner’s treatment of this story is impressive in several ways. It skilfully alleviates the monotony of old documents; it traces a complex life with reportorial skill, it makes this past sequence a matter of present concern and enlightenment … As the author of a good book, and, rarer still, a good book about crime, Falkiner deserves both praise and respect.’ —Stephen Knight, The Age Monthly Review

‘Well-researched and clearly written.’ —Peter Corris, The Weekend Australian 

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About the author

Suzanne Falkiner is a Sydney writer. The author of twelve previous books of fiction and non-fiction, her most recent titles include the biographies Joan in India, 2008, and The Imago: E. L. Grant Watson & Australia, 2011. She has been shortlisted in the Vogel Award, the Kibble Award, the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award, and the NSW History Awards. 

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Additional Information

Xoum Publishing
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Published on
Dec 1, 2014
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Biography & Autobiography / Women
True Crime / Murder / General
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The flickering, faded footage shows the ruler of Palanpur’s summer house. On a terrace overlooking the lake, Joan tilts her head and turns slightly, with unconscious grace. She smiles enigmatically. It appears to be a scene of great happiness. But who can tell?

In 1939, young Joan Falkiner’s spirited flight from South Yarra to princely India and her marriage to the Muslim ruler of a small state in Gujarat sent shockwaves through Melbourne society. News of their union quickly spread throughout the Raj and – as the kingdoms were about to disappear forever in the maelstrom of Indian Independence – went as high as the British throne.

How did it all come about? Through conversations in Melbourne, Mumbai and the South of France, research in the India Office Library in London, and her own observations while travelling in modern India, Suzanne Falkiner traces the course of a most unusual love story.

Praise for Joan in India

‘The typical fairytale of marrying a prince comes to life in this biography of an Australian girl who leaves her family … to marry a Muslim ruler … in India … Through part travelogue, Falkiner traces the feelings of Joan upon arriving … to wed a man 36 years her senior. Falkiner’s descriptions … are insightful and conjure up the very essence of being on the streets of India. The documentation of the Independence period … is brilliant and the reader gets a real grasp of how things were at the time.’ FOUR STARS **** – BOOKSELLER + PUBLISHER MAGAZINE

‘An impressive writerly achievement. One of the marvellous things about the book is the deft characterisation of the interviewees — various Falkiner matrons and matriarchs among them – as well as the wryly humorous self-dramatisation of herself as the biographical detective, quietly displaying the author’s skills as novelist and journalist.’ – Nicholas Jose

‘Deftly combining the skills of an archaeologist with those of a historian, Falkiner goes from one corner of the world to another, to excavate the love story of Joan and the Nawab of Palanpur. The breadth is aptly captured in the titles of the different parts comprising the book: Bombay, Palanpur, London, The South of France … Thus history, romance, and travelogue blend, to add a rich, hard-to-define flavour to the narrative, making it difficult for the reader to lay the book aside until finished.’ – Md Rezaul Haque, Transnational Literature, Vol 5, Issue 1, Flinders University, Adelaide

‘In her childhood, Suzanne Falkiner heard tales of a cousin called Joan who married a prince from India. As an adult, she decided to find ‘what in actuality might lie in the gap between the happy-ever-after and the faraway kingdom and the real life as it was lived out’  … As an historian of India, I can say that Falkiner has uncovered a great deal of information that has never been published, and is not generally known even by scholars working in the field.’ – John McLeod, University of Louisville

‘… both a fascinating narrative of travels around Australia and to India, Britain and France in search of people who knew Joan … and an intimate biography … Suzanne Falkiner was remarkably tenacious in tracking down individuals on three continents who did not provide many clues as to their whereabouts. She embodies the historian as detective who … is not deterred by difficult travelling conditions, unpleasant weather, recalcitrant witnesses or dead ends … Her work is an impressive contribution to the ongoing examination of the role of memory in the writing of the histories of individuals and events.’ – Barbara N. Ramusack, University of Cincinatti

‘While writing about her cousin, Falkiner makes the last few years of the Raj come alive and reverberate. Joan in India is one of those rare books you chance upon that make you glad someone wrote them.’ – Swati Daftuar, The Hindu Times

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