Title: A Life of Her Own
Author: Fiona McCallum
Published: March 18th 2019
Publisher: HQ Fiction – AU
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
When knowledge gives you the power to change your life …
Alice Hamilton loved being a mature-age student, but now she’s finished her university degree she needs to find herself a career. But the job market is tough and it doesn’t help that her partner David keeps reminding her about their sizeable mortgage. When she’s offered a role in a major real estate agency, she jumps at the opportunity. David is excited by her prospects in the thriving Melbourne housing market, and Alice is pleased that she’ll be utilising her exceptional people skills.
But Alice quickly realises all is not as it seems. What is she doing wrong to be so out of sync with her energetic boss, Carmel Gold, agent extraordinaire? Alice is determined to make it work, but how much will it affect her values?
As everything starts to fall apart, a sudden visit home to the country town Alice escaped years ago provides an unexpected opportunity to get some perspective. Surrounded by people who aren’t what they seem, or have their own agendas, can Alice learn to ask for what she really wants … on her own terms?
From Australia’s master storyteller comes an inspiring story about standing up for yourself, making difficult choices and chasing your dreams.
‘He’d seen her change, watched as her wings had unfurled.’
A butterfly about to take flight adorns the front cover Fiona McCallum’s latest piece of domestic fiction, A Life of Her Own. This butterfly is a symbol for the journey of self realisation and discovery undertaken by the main protagonist of this tale, Alice Hamilton. The stunning bouquet of flowers that accompany the butterfly image on the front cover also reminds us that life is not all hearts and roses. Life can be tough, we face obstacles that we must overcome at many points in our lives. Alice Hamilton is one thirty-something woman who must negotiate all life throws at her.
A Life of Her Own carefully considers how education and up-skilling yourself can have powerful implications for the direction you take in life. Gaining an education as a mature age student has given Alice Hamilton, the central protagonist of Fiona McCallum’s A Life of Her Own, a changed mindset. Alice has a clear thirst for knowledge, but she now feels she owes it to her partner David to contribute to the household expenses. Alice enters the job market, earning a position as a PA at a top level real estate agency. At last Alice feels like she is pulling her weight, helping to contribute to the mortgage she shares with David. However, as quickly as Alice settles into her new job, things take a nosedive. Alice’s boss shows her true colours and soon Alice begins to question the glossy veneer her boss likes to project. As her new career struggles to take off, Alice is faced with a personal crisis. Alice makes the trek home, without the support of David. For Alice, home is a place of emotional trauma and pain. But Alice hopes the trip home will give her strength and determination to move on towards a more fulfilling and happier life.
Domestic fiction or life lit seems to be a very popular sub genre of late. Many of my favourite Australian novelists are heading in this direction. A Life of Her Own is a clear example of a contemporary life focussed novel. A Life of Her Own also offers a personal slant from the author, Fiona McCallum. McCallum’s eleventh book reflects parts of her own life experiences. Fiona changed her life for the better, by embarking on a course of further education. It gave Fiona the confidence, as well as motivation, to take charge of her life. This is an inspiring tale of empowerment, which I can see reflected in many facets of A Life of Her Own.
Alice Hamilton, McCallum’s lead protagonist, is a figurehead for many Australian women. She is plagued by self doubt and she constantly grapples with putting her dreams and aspirations ahead of her duty as a spouse. I felt incredibly sorry for Alice, it did seem like bad luck seemed to follow her. Knocked down by a failed marriage, a loveless family unit, an emotionally detached partner, a best friend who commits the ultimate act of betrayal and a boss who takes bullying to the extreme, Alice has faced it all. The negativity and constant stream of difficult binds seemed like it was following a relentless cycle and I wasn’t sure when or how Alice was going to break free. However, I had faith in both Alice and Fiona McCallum’s writing. Eventually, after some soul searching, Alice takes flight and shows us all what she is made of!
A Life of Her Own is an important novel in a sense. It does give a voice to those who may be struggling to be heard. With themes of oppression, emotional abuse, manipulation, betrayal, control, blackmail, power struggles and bullying, I am sure many can relate to experiencing these issues at some point in their lives. A Life of Her Own explores the journey, the steps and the toolkit employed to rise above these challenges and work to control your own destiny. McCallum’s realistic, no-holds-back approach to both her plot and characters adds a good dose of reality for the reader, working to draw the audience completely in.
I did have some doubts when I was entering the latter stages of this novel if it was going to wrap up and how it was going to conclude. I appreciated playing an active part in how Alice puts her life back on track and I was completely engaged in the process of witnessing how Alice puts the broken pieces of her life back together. I did get the feeling that our time with Alice isn’t completely over, I am curious about the next chapter in her life. I hope McCallum invites us along for the next stage in Alice’s life.
A story told directly from the heart, A Life of Her Own is the moving journey of one woman’s struggle to gain the upper hand over her life and to live it how she wishes, instead of following the expectations of others. Inspiring and doused with plenty of realism, A Life of Her Own is a must read for all contemporary fiction lovers.
A Life of Her Own by Fiona McCallum was published on 18th March 2019 by HQ Fiction – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of A Life of Her Own, Fiona McCallum, visit here.
*I wish to thank Harper Collins Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
A Life of her Own is book #59 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge