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The Spare Room (2008)

by Helen Garner

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9929015,079 (3.89)153
"In this short and powerful novel - her first work of fiction for fifteen years - one of Australia's bestselling and most admired writers tells an extraordinary story about two women. Helen lives in Melbourne, and her friend Nicola flies down from Sydney for a three-week visit. She will sleep in Helen's house, in her lovingly prepared spare room. This is no ordinary visit. Nicola has advanced cancer and is seeking alternative treatment from a clinic in Helen's city. From the moment Nicola steps off the plane, gaunt, staggering like a crone, her voice hoarse but still with something grand about her, Helen becomes her nurse, her protector, her guardian angel and her stony judge."--Provided by publisher.… (more)
Recently added byArina40, private library, therebelprince, LifeStoriesProgram
  1. 00
    Suddenly by Bonnie Burnard (kathrynnd)
    kathrynnd: Both books are about women, friendship, and cancer.
  2. 00
    Undressing The Moon by T. Greenwood (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: The value of a friend when diagnosed with cancer.
  3. 01
    My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult (lucyknows)
    lucyknows: The Spare Room by Helen Garner may be paired with The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelide or My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult.
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» See also 153 mentions

English (83)  Spanish (5)  Dutch (1)  All languages (89)
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
A fine, short, cleansing book, kind of like having a coffee enema. There's nothing complicated going on here, unless you think writing about emotions is complicated: the set up is designed to tug at your heart strings, and it does, and it does so through easy to read prose. Only if you think friendship is easy and people are always good will anything here surprise you. But I suppose some people do think that.

The plot is straightforward: an irritating ex-hippy has cancer, refuses to accept that she's going to die, imposes herself on our narrator Helen, is unpleasant. Helen, too, is unpleasant. There are coffee enemas. There is plenty for people my age to point at as evidence for the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of people roughly Helen Garner's age (i.e., "the sixties might have ruined the fifties, which is nice, but they also ruined what was left of the twentieth century, thanks for that.")

The novel's conclusion is a bit ham-fisted. Rather than leave us to deduce the ex-hippy's death, we get a terrible "As I sat there, I did not know that such and such would happen etc etc... death" chapter, which rather undermines the wonderful economy and restraint of the first 170 (very sparsely type-set) pages.

Well, this sounds harsher than it's meant to. There's nothing wrong with a well-written book that you can read in a day, that won't buy into the silliness of 'alternative therapies,' and doesn't try to BS you in any way about people, death, or cancer. ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
Für drei Wochen will Nicola bei ihrer Freundin in Melbourne wohnen, um sich einer alternativen Krebstherapie zu unterziehen; das Zimmer steht bereit. Doch Helen trifft es völlig unvorbereitet - wie desolat Nicolas Zustand ist, wie kräftezehrend ihre Pflege, wie barbarisch die Bedingungen jener obskuren Therapie, wie wundergläubig ihre todkranke Freundin und vor allem, mit welch hilflosem, unbändigem Zorn sie selbst auf all dies reagiert. Mit entwaffnender Wahrhaftigkeit beschreibt Helen Garner diese unerträgliche Situation, in der Freundschaft, Verantwortung, ja ein Leben auf dem Spiel stehen. Doch sie setzt der Verzweiflung ein Maß an kluger Menschlichkeit und beherztem Witz entgegen, die Das Zimmer zu einer bewegenden und tröstlichen, auf wunderbare Weise heilsamen Lektüre machen.
  Fredo68 | May 14, 2020 |
I liked many parts of this, however, it really does read like nonfiction (as Garner has been accused of), it has a message, and anything outside of that message is terribly contracted. ( )
  Loryndalar | Mar 19, 2020 |
A friend, dying of cancer, comes to stay. That's no easy topic to write about, and when the friend is simply a pushover for any 'alternative' treatments the scene is set for a struggle.

Cry, laugh - yes, laugh - and enjoy this sensitively handled look at death, friends dying, cancer and hope. ( )
  p.d.r.lindsay | Dec 10, 2018 |
This is a short but thought-provoking novel. If you were sick, would you impose on a friend to care for you? If you're that friend, how much inconvenience are you willing to accept to take care of that person? What do you do when they seem ungrateful or when they don't see the toll that caring for them is taking on you? ( )
  ReadMeAnother | Oct 4, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
One sweltering summer day, Helen Garner joined mourners at the funeral of a former member of a performing troupe whose lives she had chronicled in her 1977 debut novel Monkey Grip, that tale of smack habits, communal houses and plenty of lustful sex. When the simple pine coffin was lowered to its resting place by men who took turns shovelling earth in keeping with Jewish ritual, "Helen pushed right to the front, to the lip of the grave, and got out her notebook and started to write," recalls theatre director Peter King. `Some people thought, `Oh my God.'"
 

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Helen Garnerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Falkner, GerhardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ferrer, IsabelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matocza, NoraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Solum, KristinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Versluys, MarijkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vezzoli, DelfinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
It is a privilege to prepare the place where someone else will sleep.
-- Elizabeth Jolley
Dedication
First words
First, in my spare room, I swivelled the bed on to a north-south axis.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

"In this short and powerful novel - her first work of fiction for fifteen years - one of Australia's bestselling and most admired writers tells an extraordinary story about two women. Helen lives in Melbourne, and her friend Nicola flies down from Sydney for a three-week visit. She will sleep in Helen's house, in her lovingly prepared spare room. This is no ordinary visit. Nicola has advanced cancer and is seeking alternative treatment from a clinic in Helen's city. From the moment Nicola steps off the plane, gaunt, staggering like a crone, her voice hoarse but still with something grand about her, Helen becomes her nurse, her protector, her guardian angel and her stony judge."--Provided by publisher.

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Average: (3.89)
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 192135139X, 1921520280

Canongate Books

2 editions of this book were published by Canongate Books.

Editions: 1847672655, 1847672671

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