The Spare Room by Helen Garner: A Short Book Review

It was with a sigh of relief that I read the last page of The Spare Room by Helen Garner. I’d read about this book and when it was offered on LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Programme I ticked the box, never thinking I would “snag” it, but I did. I was hesitant about reading it, because it sounded a tough subject – for three weeks Helen’s friend Nicola who is suffering from cancer, stays with her whilst she undergoes alternative therapy. Nicola refuses to accept that she is dying and Helen struggles to cope with the situation.

It’s not a book that I would say I enjoyed. It is a difficult book to read, not because of the style of writing, which is fluent, but because of the agonising descriptions of Nicola’s condition and the anguish and anger that hits Helen. But I’m glad I read it; it was nowhere nearly as bad as I imagined it would be and I will look out for more books by Helen Garner.

7 thoughts on “The Spare Room by Helen Garner: A Short Book Review

  1. I agree … having watched a very good friend lose a battle with cancer three years ago, I was very tentative about reading this book. But I loved its honesty, and the recognition that these battles are always very personal (from all sides). I also agree that Helen Garner is an amazing writer. It certainly helps that this is quite a short book. Not sure I could cope with too many more pages of this type of story!


  2. Nothing Garner writes is comfortable, but I would recommend the rest of her books. Her non-fiction book Joe Cinque’s consolation about an Australian murder case is particularly interesting. One of those books you make everyone you know read so you can argue with them about it!


  3. I have this one as well, and have heard many good things about it, but as I know the subject matter is tough I’m not yet ready to reach for it to read!


  4. I’ve seen a few reviews, but have resisted putting it on my list because it seemed like something that would really depress me. It is hard enough to deal with cancer in real life, I don’t want to spend my fantasy time mired in the horror of it. From your review I’m still not adding it to my list, but I’m glad that you found it worthwhile.


  5. I notice this book on the Library Thing website as well. Tough subject matter but still sounds like an interesting read, thanks for the review.


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