Those of us who love her writing will follow Helen Garner wherever she goes. From the agony of falling in love with a junkie in Monkey Grip to the bizarre murder story of Joe Cinque’s Consolation, the master storyteller continues to defy and surprise by blurring the boundaries of memoir, true crime and fiction.
Now, in a publishing event to mark her 75th birthday, two beautiful hardback editions of some of her finest work have been released just in time for Christmas. There’s True Stories, a wonderful collection of short non-fiction that celebrates nearly fifty years of her writing life, and Stories, an accompanying collection of brilliant short fiction. A great gift for any book lover.
True Stories begins with The Schoolteacher in 1972, in which Garner loses her job as a schoolteacher after giving her Year Six classroom an impromptu sex education. In a series of secretive lessons, she disobeys all the rules of her job to speak candidly about sex and provide her students with the education she wished she had received much earlier in life.
Included in this collection is her 2017 true crime piece ‘Why She Broke,’ in which Garner tells the story of Akon Guode who drove her car into a lake, tragically drowning three of her children. The circumstances of Akon’s crime eerily echoes the incident involving Robert Farquharson, who drove his car into a dam, killing his three sons, and whose murder trial is the subject of Garner’s true crime book This House of Grief.
There are also tales of contemplation and reminiscence that demonstrate Garner’s robustness as writer and importance as an Australian literary voice. Many of her reflections mirror her own life – growing up in Melbourne, attending school dances, revisiting the coastal town of her birth, learning to live in Fitzroy share houses, yet they still resonate for anyone who’s ever dreamed or loved, failed or triumphed.
There are glimpses into the mid-seventies bohemian side of Melbourne in ‘Sing For Your Supper’ and an arresting story titled ‘At The Morgue,’ in which Garner visits a mortuary.
But it’s never enough to state simply what her stories are about: ‘In all her work she employs a clear-eyed observation of life’s details which allows us to see beyond the surface of things and people,’ said ABC Radio’s Richard Fidler.
Garner’s writing is emotional, witty, erudite, wide-eyed and curious, and remarkably human all at once. No one writes like Helen Garner, and what better way to cherish her extraordinary career than this collection of just over 100 brilliant stories.
About the author
Helen Garner is recognised as one of the world’s great writers. Her amazing repertoire includes writing novels, stories, screenplays, and works of non-fiction. Garner received the inaugural Melbourne Prize for Literature, and in 2016 won the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize for non-fiction. Her non-fiction includes The First Stone and This House of Grief. Born in Geelong, Victoria, the eldest of six children, two of her works have been adapted into feature films: her debut novel, Monkey Grip (published in 1977) and Joe Cinque’s Consolation which also won the Ned Kelly award for Best True Crime Book (2005). According to interviewers, Garner is as plain speaking in person as she is on the page.