web analytics

Blog: Finishing my first book for the AWWC2012

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.)”



10 responses to “Blog: Finishing my first book for the AWWC2012”

  1. I’m never exactly sure how to feel about Garner’s work – often the characters are hard to like, just as in this one.

    Thanks for sharing your review

    Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out

  2. I’ll probably give this one a miss. Sounds a little draining? I’m reading Bad Power after I finish The Shattered city for the challenge.

  3. Well, I cannot fault ANY of those decisions. ;)

    (Draining is a good word.)

  4. I loved THE CHILDREN’S BACH at the time, but now I’d worry about approaching it again.

    I think you’re right: she does excel at unlikeable characters. Which is a blessing & a curse…

  5. Nice review,
    I agree with your observations, but I enjoyed this book alot more than you did. I’m usually funny with unlikable characters- which they certainly are- but despite them I found this book almost read itself and I really enjoyed it. For some reason I felt that it was somehow true to the characters and their experiences.
    Looking forward to your next review :)

  6. It’s a good read, but nothing amazing (but then I’ve thought that about all the Garner books I’ve read!). The fact that I’d like to read more of her work must say something though…

  7. She’s definitely an interesting writer. Her subject matter is always thought-provoking.

  8. somehow true to the characters and their experiences

    Yes, it does feel very true, and very brave. :)

  9. Garner gives us an insight into the complexities of friendships, grief and loss. I enjoyed this story, despite it being a sad tale.

  10. Beautiful summary. :)