Helen Garner Watch #5

Reviews of The Spare Room

Susie Boyt in "The Financial Times" : "Delivered in an almost conversational tone, this is an unsettling and skilled work that raises important questions about the process of dying and what caring well for the dying requires. Is the etiquette of death yet to be devised - and ought there to be one? We sometimes behave differently with those facing death - perhaps being economical with the truth orplacating at every turn. Maybe something in us alters or we lower our standards when it comes to caring for the terminally ill. Do we create new rules for ourselves - and is this kindness or cowardice? The Spare Room doesn't shirk from such awful enquiries."

Kate Bateman in "The Irish Times": "The book itself is a little beauty, nice to hold with beautiful end-papers and a silk marker to hold your place...A most appealing feature of this novel is the elegance and taut style of the narrative voice as she gives expression to large and small questions - friendship, death, tolerance, truthfulness, and the work of the day. The authentic, down-under voice sustains the work through thoughtful and dialogue sequences."

Short Notices

"The Resident Judge of Port Phillip" weblog: "I loved the embeddedness of this book within Melbourne suburbia, and her confidential and warm tone --like a good, satisfying talk with an old friend."

"Dovegreyreader" : "Susan Hill suggested I read this one and also told me to look carefully at the very clever ending, which I did and yes, how very clever it is. I won't divulge because then you can watch out for it too, it's more about style than plot but such a clever way for a writer to preserve for posterity a moment of utter guilt, trapped like the insect in the amber. Regardless of what may happen next, nothing will assuage Helen's agony over her decision, one that tests her innermost feelings about the bonds of friendship to the very limits and Helen Garner has captured it with utter precision."

The "Nice Lady Doctor" weblog: "In the few hours I was reading it, I learnt more about the psychological effects of a terminal diagnosis on the patient and on his or her carer, than I have in some years as a doctor. It's such a human piece of writing, and so full of affection and humour."


You'll know by now that The Spare Room did not make the Booker longlist. Jamie Byng, publisher of Canongate who released the book in the UK, was not at all impressed by the omission and had a few things to say about it - about 7th comment down. In particular he took a shot at a thriller that had been included. Needless to say, some reaction ensued. Byng followed this up on another site.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on August 29, 2008 9:31 AM.

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