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The spare room by Helen Garner
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The spare room (original 2008; edition 2008)

by Helen Garner

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7218013,038 (3.89)120
Member:Sharkell
Title:The spare room
Authors:Helen Garner
Info:New York : Henry Holt, 2008.
Collections:Your library, Read in 2013
Rating:****1/2
Tags:Australia

Work details

The Spare Room by Helen Garner (2008)

  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 120 mentions

English (74)  Spanish (5)  Dutch (1)  All languages (80)
Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a spare and unsparing book. At 175 pages with wide margins and large type, it is scarcely more than a novella and covers a span of only three weeks. But it packs a wallop.

As the story opens Helen, the narrator, is awaiting the arrival of her friend Nicola, a proud, independent, somewhat imperious older woman who is coming to Melbourne, Australia to stay in Helen's spare room. Nicola, suffering from stage four cancer, has come to undergo three weeks of cancer treatment at an alternative clinic. Helen is initially pleased to be able to help her glamorous, free-spirited friend, but that soon changes. Nicola turns a blind eye to the obvious quackery of the treatment, and downplays its horrible side effects, confident that it is driving out her disease. Helen, exhausted from nursing a friend who cannot acknowledge that she needs help, grows increasingly angry and frustrated.

Garner's narrator Helen struggles with agonizing choices. Does she take hope away from Nicola in order to spare her the pain of useless treatments? Is it cruel or kind to force her friend to face her mortality? And to what degree is her own fear of death fueling her anger? Garner unflinchingly tackles all these hard questions and offers no easy answers. She has said that this story is a fictionalized version based on the illness and death of her friend Jenya Osborne, and perhaps that's why its brutal honesty and powerful empathy both leap off the page. This is a book that's hard to read and even harder to stop reading.
  books4micks | Oct 27, 2014 |
I don't award 5 stars very often, but this book deserves it. It was one of those where I savoured every page yet could hardly bear to turn them, knowing it was one step closer to the end. I aspire to observe and describe people with the same skill as Garner. Will definitely be seeking out her others. ( )
  Aleesa | Jun 13, 2013 |
A really interesting book. I thought at first that it was a memoir but it isn't. The characters are all really believable and the story is touching. ( )
  jodes101 | May 9, 2013 |
A tough subject beautifully treated with strong, sensitive writing. ( )
  Angela.Kingston | May 1, 2013 |
An incredible book which is full of truth, love and grief. But it's never tolling and always comforting. Helen Garner is a joy to read. ( )
  teaswirls | Apr 3, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 74 (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.'"
 
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People/Characters
Important places
Important events
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Awards and honors
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.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805088881, Hardcover)

A powerful, witty, and taut novel about a complex friendship between two women—one dying, the other called to care for her—from an internationally acclaimed and award-winning author

How much of ourselves must we give up to help a friend in need? Helen has little idea what lies ahead—and what strength she must muster—when she offers her spare room to an old friend, Nicola, who has arrived in the city for cancer treatment. Skeptical of the medical establishment, and placing all her faith in an alternative health center, Nicola is determined to find her own way to deal with her illness, regardless of the advice Helen offers.

In the weeks that follow, Nicola’s battle for survival will turn not only her own life upside down but also those of everyone around her. The Spare Room is a magical gem of a book—gripping, moving, and unexpectedly funny—that packs a huge punch, charting a friendship as it is tested by the threat of death.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:27 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Offering a room to an old friend who is undergoing treatment for cancer, Helen finds her advice disregarded in the face of her friend's faith in alternative medicine, a situation that turns both of their lives upside-down.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

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Canongate Books

2 editions of this book were published by Canongate Books.

Editions: 1847672655, 1847672671

Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 192135139X, 1921520280

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