Helen Garner Watch #4

Reviews of The Spare Room

Neel Mukherjee in "The Times": "Only great fiction demands us to reset our moral compass and look at our value coordinates all over again. The Spare Room achieves this by relentlessly working out the dimensions behind the simple words: 'Death will not be denied. To try is grandiose. It drives madness into the soul. It leaches out virtue. It injects poison into friendship, and makes a mockery of love.'"

Olivia Laing in "The Observer": "How we die and how we stand to be with those who are dying are serious questions, but even at the most painful moments Garner maintains a characteristic lightness of touch, a combination of wit and lyricism that is immensely alluring." She concludes that this is an "extraordinary, exhilarating novel".

Stevie Davies in "The Independent": "In Australia, Helen Garner has a controversial reputation for writing fiction as if it were memoir. This compulsively readable, searing novel narrates the author's own nursing of a close friend through terminal cancer. Author and narrator are called Helen. So is this a fictionalised memoir? Not really. It's a fiction about truth; about witnessing to truth -- and, disturbingly, about enforcing it upon the dying. A hymn to friendship tested to its limits, the novel is also a manifesto and a confession."

Claire Allfree in "MetroLife": "Garner tackles what could be a dangerously mawkish subject with a cool head and a piercing eye, cutting through the sentimental clutter to the bones of what matters: the selfishness of grief and suffering; the denial and courage that death inspires; and the power of love to keep on going."

Short Notices

Jane Shilling in "The Telegraph": "Garner writes with the cool authority of personal experience, and apprehends Helen and Nicola's loving and warring worlds in such fine and sensuous detail that pain itself is rendered beautiful."


After going to see "the Children's Bach" performed by the ChamberMade Opera, fibee71 wonders if Garner has any joy in her life. And Jack Teiwes reviews the performance for "Australian Stage Online".

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on July 23, 2008 8:51 PM.

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