Helen Garner Watch #9

Reviews of The Spare Room

Steven Riddle on the "A Momentary Taste of Being" weblog: "I have finished my first book of the decade, and I could wish that it had been some other.  Not that this isn't a superb, compact, beautiful, and harrowing book.  It is.  In every respect it is well composed and beautiful executed. However, it is the kind of book that fills me with anxiety and dread--and I can't really say why--only that for me it is so."

"Crayongirl's Blog": "It might be short, but it truly is beautifully written.  The details leap out of the page, as Helen becomes more distressed by her friend's illness she focuses more on the beauty around her, noticing the red hue of a pot or the smell of coffee haunting the house after an evening of attempts at coffee enemas...It may sound strange to say, but I really enjoyed this book.  It was beautiful, haunting and elegiac, the prose was spartan but held such a variety of emotions from page to page."

Jess on the "Start Narrative Here" weblog: "The emotional impact on the reader doesn't come solely from the question of the morality of shady alternatives that falsely encourage hope in terminally ill patients, but rather the strength of the relationship between Nicola and Helen, even at its darkest and when all hope appears to be lost. As an unashamedly selfish twenty-something, it made me ask myself the question of how far would I be willing to go for someone I care about? What responsibilities to our loved ones do we hold in our relationship with them? To what extent are we willing to accept responsibility of their well being? In The Spare Room, Helen is happy to take on the draining routines of care even though she wasn't asked, but she also recognizes her own inability to fully deal with the situation."

Genevieve Fox writes of various reactions to the book amongst her fellow book club members.

"The Guardian" chose The Spare Room as one of "The Decade's Best Unread Books" describing it as: "This deceptively slight novel is as good as anything Canongate has ever published. Or will publish. It's deceptive in many ways and I think its great subtlety is one of the reasons that it will only get fully appreciated over time. I've read it three times now and on each occasion my awe at what Garner has achieved increases. The Spare Room is a brutally honest novel about death, friendship and emotional dishonesty, written in prose that manages to be both delicate and visceral. It was overlooked by all the judges of the literary prizes in this country and these prizes are key for a book like this to sell in any serious quantity. But I still remain confident that this exceptional book will be come to be widely regarded as a modern classic. Because that is what it is."

Mae, of the "Mad Bibliophile" weblog, went along in February to see Helen Garner in conversation with Jennifer Byrne at the new Wheeler Centre in Melbourne.

You can see some video of that night's events.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on April 19, 2010 9:06 AM.

2009 Patrick White Playwrights' Award was the previous entry in this blog.

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