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Review: A Life Of Her Own by Fiona McCallum

on April 2, 2019

A Life Of Her Own 
Fiona McCallum
Harlequin AUS
2019, 416p
Copy courtesy of the publisher/AM Publicity

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

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?

In her latest novel, Australian author Fiona McCallum tackles something I can relate to – a woman in her thirties who isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life. After the breakdown of her first marriage in her small hometown, a chance meeting led Alice Hamilton to undertake the university degree she’d never gotten the chance to do when she was younger. She discovered that she really loved study and now armed with her bachelor, she is interested in going further. But partner David has ambitions and he needs Alice in the workforce to pay down the large mortgage they’ve just undertaken, buying a house in Melbourne.

Alice struggles with really finding something that she’s greatly passionate about. She applies for jobs but nothing about them really excite her, although when she secures one as an assistant to a mover and shaker real estate agent, she’s determined to do her best at it. But I can relate to Alice’s struggle to find that thing that speaks to her. When I was in high school (forever ago now) I thought I’d have that magic moment where I’d come across the career I was ‘meant’ to do. A couple of university experiences later, I still haven’t found it and probably never will. I don’t think it works like that for a lot of people – work is necessary to pay the bills and sometimes you don’t have the luxury of waiting for that dream opportunity to come along. You take what is on offer and under pressure from David to contribute to the household, Alice does just that. She lands what sounds like a great job – but the red flags present early and it isn’t long before the job is stripping any confidence she had in her abilities and leaving her dreading it.

I enjoyed the story of this book but I think there were a couple of things that threw it off for me – the first is the pacing. It’s a bit uneven, the situation at Alice’s new job seems to escalate really quickly in a way that I think would’ve been much more impactful if it’d been over a longer period and really showed the gaslighting that can take place by people in positions of money and influence who are enabled in their bad behaviour. Also David is quite obviously a dill from the first page but Alice either cannot or does not see it for far too long and then when things do happen, it’s again, at a really rapid pace and things fall into place in this magical way that does not really seem to reflect how difficult it can be to start over on your own and uproot and change your entire life. Basically, Alice experiences a lot of horrible people doing horrible things to her, from her mother and sister in childhood, to her first husband, to her best friend, to her partner, to her boss, and she tolerates this for a long time and honestly, it got a bit wearying at times, like here is another person making things difficult for her.

But this is a journey – and Alice I suppose, has to learn how to stand up for herself and put herself and her self worth first. Firstly with her professional life, figuring out what she wants to do and also facing her fears and the terrible experiences she had and learning from them, addressing them and being able to move on from them so that she can basically be ‘at peace’. And also in her personal life, not tolerating being unhappy because someone else is pressuring her about something she isn’t particularly invested in. It’s quite obvious that Alice isn’t happy for quite a long time and that her and her partner have two very different outlooks on life and desires for their future but it can still be quite difficult to make that break. So in that case, everything Alice experiences here becomes part of who she is and how she decides to shape her future. She’s lucky in that she has a supportive friend, who actually turns out to be rather helpful in more than one way but apart from that and a kind stepfather who does his best, Alice does not have the largest circle, which I think she needs to perhaps work on (there’s evidence of this at the end of the book, so I think she’s on the right track). I appreciated the overall arc of Alice’s journey and I feel as though I could definitely relate to her because of that search for who she is and what she wants to do.

I had the feeling on finishing this, that it was set up for a sequel. Alice has made some decisions, but she hasn’t really begun living them yet and there’s obviously plenty left for her to do and experience. I’m actually quite curious about what happens next and how she gets to where she has decided she wants to be.

7/10

Book #49 of 2019

A Life Of Her Own is the 22nd book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019


2 responses to “Review: A Life Of Her Own by Fiona McCallum

  1. […] A Life Of Her Own by Fiona McCallum. My review. […]

  2. […] direction, her getting to almost 30 and not knowing what she wanted to do with her life. I said in my review that I felt like that book was set up for a follow up and here it is. Alice is living and working […]

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