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I decided to read the spare room after the MAN Booker long list was announced. No i'm not blind, and yes i can read. Helen Garner wasn't on it. But i wanted to read it because of the anger that appeared on the forums that it had been missed. So i thought id read it. Glad i did! The spare room tells the story of a woman, terminally ill with cancer. She seeks help from a friend to look after her. Putting immense strain on her. The dieing lady refuses to accept that her time is up and looks into therapeutic measures of treatment, furthering the strain on her friend. The story is a tale of friendship and how far would you go to assist a friend. The book is not a gripping tale, but i was absorbed and hooked. I couldn't fail to put it down. Depressing a topic it may have been it was a joy to read. Garner wove a an intricate tale and as the reviews say on the back of this book "She writes the best sentences in Australia". The book has brilliant imagery and you can really feel the sense of dread and fear and hopelessness that grips the friend who doesn't have the cancer. A book that is clear a lot of work and research went into, and I agree with the forums, this book should have not been overlooked. It stands on its own as literature that should be read. A adsorbing read!
It's nice to read a book where each word means something and nothing has been wasted. This is my first novel by Garner and it was a pleasure. I can't compare it to any of her other material as she was an unknown author for me and I was only drawn to this novel by the cover but I'm pleased I opted for it. The quality of the writing is excellent; if this is her usual standard then I need to read more of her work. I wonder if any of it echoes the author's life? I don't know the answer to this but it felt like it was written from personal experience. I expected it to be full of woe and misery, and whilst it is emotional in places; Helen's character does actually go over all the thoughts you know you shouldn't have if you were in that situation. I can't imagine how I would feel if I was Helen, having my friend Nicola come to stay for three weeks whilst she receives treatment for her progressing cancer. The novel lives up to the quotations and blurb and explores a friendship that is about to be tested to its limits - will it flourish or will it flounder? I liked Helen's character, it was good to see her arguing with her friend (even though she knew she shouldn't) about the treatment she was going for and whether or not it was worthwhile. It was refreshing to read about the struggles and that she desperately wanted her friend to move out because she couldn't take any more; rather than reading about how wonderful everything was. I found myself laughing at Helen's nature and how (or so it seemed) Nicola was completely oblivious, until you realise she isn't actually like this and some of it is a coping mechanism. The length was great, had Garner gone for a lengthier novel it would have spoiled the writing and in my opinion made it a dreary read. A great novel and one I'm happy to recommend.