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

by Helen Garner

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7188013,105 (3.89)119
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 119 mentions

English (74)  Spanish (5)  Dutch (1)  All languages (80)
Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
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 |
This review was originally posted at my blog http://www.ifnotread.wordpress.com

I have a hardcover edition of The Spare Room. I think it’s important to have the hardcover. Like Julian Barnes’ The Sense Of An Ending, The Spare Room is less than 200 pages. I would feel that the novel in paperback would diminish the story somehow; that it was a slight of a book – and it is not.

Helen hosts a friend, Nicola, for three weeks at her place. Nicola is in Melbourne for cancer treatment. Helen is her friend’s nurse for that time but she begins to question the treatment Nicola insists on receiving. And that’s only the beginning. It seems that Nicola is in denial and it leaves a trail of destruction, with friends and family that care for her, entangled in the mess:

"She’s cast us as the carriers of all the bad stuff – and somehow we’ve let her. She sails about with that ghastly smile on her face, telling everyone she’s going to be better by the middle of next week, and meanwhile we’re trawling along the bottom picking up all the anguish and rage that she’s thrown overboard."

The book is deceptive. Garner makes it look very easy, this writing business. I admit, early on, maybe in the first 30 pages, I felt a little disconnected from the story. I questioned whether I thought this story was worth knowing about. But at some point, I was transported. It is so intimate, so claustrophobic. I felt I was in the house with Helen and Nicola, in the spare room. Garner’s humour is dry and sharp; the perfect kind of humour for this story.

There are scatterings of quiet moments, of awkwardness, of sadness, of resignation. It’s the stuff that happens in this silence where the novel comes alive. I think that is why The Spare Room is not very long. Garner can say a great deal in the white space, between the words. ( )
  ifnotread | Mar 31, 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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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
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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References to this work on external resources.

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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

Two editions of this book were published by Canongate Books.

Editions: 1847672655, 1847672671

Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 192135139X, 1921520280

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