I’m cross-posting my first goodreads review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012. I read Helen Garner’s THE SPARE ROOM in a couple of days, having left it on my ‘to read’ list for far too long. And, look, I admit up-front that I admired it more than I liked it:
“A brutal, honest look at a friendship pushed to the limits by one woman’s failure to accept her terminal illness or the effects of that illness on her family & friends. It’s also the study of a narcissist, Nicola, equal parts selfish & fascinating, as observed by her angry friend, Helen.
Garner’s prose is hard-edged, occasionally stark, & sometimes oddly melodramatic. She doesn’t just sit in a chair, she ‘dives’ for a chair, she doesn’t hand over a bottle of juice, she ‘thrusts’ it into her friend’s hand. So many strange verb choices that symbolise, I think, the energetic rage of the central character.
Garner’s strength is to keep us reading even when we can’t find a single likeable character in the book. She is a keen observer of the domestic horror of an ordinary life during extraordinary events, & her character are almost all more or less monsters in an untamed landscape. During moments of potential pathos, Garner’s characters have an unusual tendency to suddenly admire a red vase on a windowsill, or ‘dive’ for a pair of shears in order to trim a friend’s rosebush.
Ultimately, my conclusion was that this is an admirable book, & left me with a feeling akin to what the ‘Helen’ of the narrative felt for her friend Nicola: compulsion, repulsion, tenderness, and a pressing need to rush through to the ending.
(Note: This is my first entry in the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2012.)”