Half Wild by Pip Smith

Half Wild by Pip Smith

Half Wild is a fictionalised account of the lives of Eugenia Falleni, a transgender convicted murderer in the early 1900s. Pip Smith’s debut novel opens up a world of questions about reality, society and identity. As a child, Eugenia questions the world around her, deconstructing and rebuilding it, so that it fits her reality. Smith doesn’t dwell on Falleni’s sexuality, instead she offers a simple illustration of gendered identity, with Eugenia living not what is desired, but simply what is. The protagonist is not only rebelling against gender, but questioning society and the seemingly futile progress that it subscribes to.

Smith’s is a complex novel—the point of view shifts between Falleni and her selves, the reader, and the public, making it difficult at times to comprehend the written text while also drawing on your thoughts about the possible narrative. In Half Wild, Falleni is the epitome of an unreliable narrator, but the questions set up in the first act, as well as Smith’s author’s note, make you realise that the only truth we will know of Eugenia Falleni/Harry Crawford/Jean Ford is drawn from a series of twisted opinions and memories.

This is a fascinating portrait of a human life, and while the specifics may not be generally applied, the surrounding context of a life and its part to play in society is illustrated in this textured narrative.


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