Friday, March 13, 2009

The Spare Room by Helen Garner

The Spare Room by Helen Garner

I was so excited to see a Helen Garner book actually published here in the US. She is my favorite Australian author. The Spare Room is searing. Our character prepares the spare room for a friend's visit. A friend who is dying of cancer, refuses to admit it and has become prey to medical charlatans. How far can a friendship be pulled? Affirmation and hope are the initial responses but as the care exhausts the carer the truth can rise brutally to the surface. We are pulled along and into that vortex by the author's clear unadorned prose.

Somehow Garner can conjure the particular and the universal in one story. How much can a friend ask and how much can the other give? Nicola is a frustrating mix of open hearted love, vulnerability and stubborn frightened denial. An ancient hippie. Helen, her friend of 15 years, is a good friend, someone who cherishes friendship but is driven to the edge. Their way through, not around, this problem is beautifully explored.

I would recommend any of Helen Garner's writing as a rare experience.


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