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The Spare Room

by Helen Garner

Helen prepares her spare room for her friend Nicola, who is flying down from Sydney for a three-week visit. But this is no ordinary visit—Nicola has advanced cancer. She is coming to Melbourne to receive treatment she believes will cure her.

From the moment Nicola steps off the plane, Helen becomes her nurse, her protector, her guardian angel and her stony judge.

The Spare Room tells a story of compassion and rage as the two women—one sceptical, one stubbornly serene—negotiate their way through Nicola’s gruelling treatments. Garner’s dialogue is pitch perfect, her sense of pacing flawless as this novel draws to its terrible and transcendent finale.

Winner, Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction, Queensland Premier’s Award for Fiction and the Barbara Jefferis Award.

‘It’s a book which asks unavoidable and painful questions, not least about the nature of friendship, with a clarity that offers no room for evasion. It refuses to offer easy answers or false comfort. A book for grown-up people, in other words. And the Lord knows, there are a lot of the other sort about.‘ Hilary Mantel

‘A perfect novel, imbued with all Garner’s usual clear-eyed grace but with some other magnificent dimension that hides between the lines of her simple conversational voice. How is it that she can enter this heart-breaking territory—the dying friend who comes to stay—and make it not only bearable, but glorious, and funny? There is no answer except: Helen Garner is a great writer;The Spare Room is a great book.’ Peter Carey

‘The Spare Room : Garner’s first novel in fifteen years, a lean claustrophobic drama about a cancer sufferer and the friend she calls on for help, illuminates the big questions of what it means to be human, and makes me glad I am a reader.’ Australian Literary Review

 


Overview

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Book Club Notes
Released
07 April, 2008

About Helen Garner

Helen Garner was born in 1942 in Geelong, and was educated there and at Melbourne University. She taught in Victorian secondary schools until 1972, when she was dismissed for answering her students’ questions about sex, and had to start writing journalism for a living. Her first novel, Monkey Grip, came out in 1977, won the 1978 National Book Council Award, and was adapted for film in 1981. Since then she has published novels, short stories, essays, and feature journalism. Her screenplay The Last Days of Chez Nous was filmed in 1990. Garner has won many prizes, among them a Walkley Award for her 1993 article about the murder of two-year-old Daniel Valerio. In 1995 she published The First Stone, a controversial account of a Melbourne University sexual harassment case. Joe Cinque’s Consolation (2004) was a non-fiction study of two murder trials in Canberra. In 2006 Helen Garner received the inaugural Melbourne Prize for Literature. Her most recent novel, The Spare Room (2008), won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Queensland Premier’s Award for Fiction and the Barbara Jefferis Award, and has been translated into many languages. Helen Garner lives in Melbourne.



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