Book Review: The New Woman by Charity Norman

The New Woman

Sometimes picking up a book with no foreknowledge of the story or the author and with no expectations is the best way to pick up a book.    This was one such book, and had it not been for the postal book club I am part of I’m fairly sure I would not have chosen it myself.  I

Luke Livingstone is a pillar of the community, a solicitor, a  father, a grandfather, happily married and about to celebrate his 30th wedding anniversary.  On the surface he has everything a family who love him, a job he is good at and an idyllic home.  And yet when the novel opens we find a man so unhappy he is on the edge of ending it all.

“A stranger on a train.  There was nobody I could possibly have told except a very old woman I’d never seen before and never would again.

‘I won’t be here there’ I said. ‘If all goes to plan I’ll be gone by tomorrow morning.  This signals failure on the line has prolonged my life’

Her fingers stopped moving. ‘My I ask why?’

‘Because it’s time, because I have come to the end of a very long road.'”

Luke has been hiding the most fundamental truth about himself and his true identity.  If he is to go on living he has to confess to those who love him most, and who he loves most who he really is, the woman he really is.  What follows is a tidal wave of raw emotion and reaction as his family responds to this revelation

This is a book about pushing boundaries, transformation, gender, being true to who you are and being prepared to take risks.  I enjoyed it very much.  As one of my friends who has read this pointed out, some of the characters are difficult to like (Luke’s son in  particular), but for me that did not detract from my enjoyment.  I was saddened by particular events and characters reactions but I could also understand why they may have reacted as they did.

The story moved at a fair pace and I suspect the speed at which the events of the transformation were happening moved a little more quickly than they would in reality, but I appreciate this is fiction and not fact. An advantage of this is that the writing also flows steadily as events unfold, making it a book which is easy to read and hard to put down.  The conclusion is perhaps a little too tidy and ‘happy ending-esque’ but I felt satisfied by it and in my opinion it was a fitting end to a tumultuous journey.

It’s a subject which I suspect takes some courage to take on, for fear of getting it wrong.  I think Charity Norman got it very right. I don’t know what the authors experience of this particular subject is but she writes authoritatively, and sympathetically about a situation that the majority of us probably have little or no experience of.

This is a novel which may challenge your own beliefs and prejudices.  However, if you choose to read it (and I hope you will) I hope that you will experience some of the surprise I did.

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