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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
9269117,783 (3.9)154
"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)
Member:Sirch
Title:The spare room
Authors:Helen Garner
Info:Melbourne : The Text Publishing Company, 2008.
Collections:Your library
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Work Information

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 154 mentions

English (85)  Spanish (5)  Dutch (1)  All languages (91)
Showing 1-5 of 85 (next | show all)
I picked this up at 2:30 and finished it by 7:00 the same day. I thought it was extraordinary. It is the story of two 60-something friends, Helen and Nicola. Nicola who has advanced cancer asks Helen if she can come and stay with her in Melbourne while she undergoes a three-week experimental, shysterish treatment. Both women were and are bohemians, although Nicola is the one more entranced by alternative-whatever.
It is amazing the economy, in under 200 pages, with which Garner deals with a number of minor characters and a tightly composed plot that manages to touch on a variety of topics including friendship, death, medicine, family. What stood out to me most was the conflict between carer Helen and patient Nicola: the denial, the fear and anger, the urge to do the right thing versus the things that are not clearly in Nicola’s best interest, the ambiguities threaded throughout.
The book is sad and funny. It did remind me of my mother’s death and the conflict, denial, love, fear, helplessness it entailed. I still don’t understand it but the novel treats of these very issues. Both main characters were appealing and their bond believable. Very well written with more obscure Australia-isms than I knew existed—tinnie, dobbing, manchester, doona, being a few. ( )
  jdukuray | Jun 23, 2021 |
Helen accepts Nicola into her home, while Nicola undergoes treatment for her cancer. Helen finds that the treatment is questionable, but Nicola is set on continuing. The relationship between the two women grows strained, and Helen struggles to care for her friend. This book explores the emotions and ethics surrounding a patient and their care, when the choices made by the patient impact their friends and family. ( )
  Vividrogers | Dec 20, 2020 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 85 (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
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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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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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